KLM to apply for slot in new airport
Daxing is attracting further domestic and international airlines and opening more routes
Published: Oct 24, 2019 06:28 PM

The KLM miniature houses on display at the 100th anniversary celebration held in Shanghai on October 19.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is in the process of applying for a slot in Beijing's new airport, and it hopes to operate from next summer, Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, said recently. 

"We hope we can fly in two airports in Beijing," he said at the airline's 100th anniversary celebration held in Shanghai on October 19.

The two airports in the capital are the Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) and the Beijing Daxing International Airport, which began operations at the end of September this year. 

KLM currently operates a daily flight to Amsterdam from BCIA.

KLM began its direct flight to Beijing in 1996 and to Shanghai in 1999, and has since expanded its reach to more second-tier cities such as Chengdu, Hangzhou and Xiamen. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of its Shanghai-Amsterdam route.

KLM is not alone in seeking a slot at the new Daxing airport, as several more international carries will join domestic airlines operating there.

From Sunday, a number of domestic and foreign airlines will be transferred to, or enter, the new airport. The total number of airlines operating in Daxing will then reach 15, including eight from overseas countries, such as British Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines.

Two additional foreign airlines, Polish Airlines and Finnair, will operate simultaneously at Beijing's two airports, and KLM hopes to follow.

Throughout the winter season this year, the new airport is expected to open 119 routes, including 104 domestic routes and covering 118 destinations worldwide. 

The KLM miniature houses on display at the 100th anniversary celebration Pieter Elbers, president and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Photos: Courtesy of KLM Royal Dutch Airlinesheld in Shanghai on October 19.


KLM's potential expansion marks a development in the China-Europe aviation market, as Europe is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese travelers. 

Data from the China Tourism Academy showed that in 2018, more than 6 million Chinese people traveled to Europe, making it the second-largest destination for Chinese tourists, second only to Asia. The China-Europe route market has maintained rapid growth.

Over the past ten years, the average number of monthly flights between China and Europe has increased from 1,300 to 2,600, and the number of routes has increased from 30 to 76, data from global consultancy firm Roland Berger showed. 

In 2017, there were 9 Chinese and 21 foreign airlines operating direct flights to Europe from China, Ma Congxian, vice president of Air China, said in May last year, according to a report from news portal

Juneyao Airlines in June made its first flight from Shanghai to Helsinki in Finland, and became the first private Chinese airline to operate long-haul, wide-body aircraft.

However, the issue of excess capacity in the second-tier-city intercontinental market has always existed. 

At first, European demand for flights to second-tier Chinese cities was not very high. But in the last two years, European passengers traveling to Chengdu, Hangzhou and Xiamen are rising steadily in number, Elbers said, adding that KLM passengers can transfer from Xiamen, Chengdu and other airports to more Chinese destinations, in cooperation with Chinese airlines.

"China has become one of KLM's most important markets, and is the second-largest overseas market after the US, and the largest market in Asia," Elbers said.

When asked if KLM had any plan to open routes to new destinations in China, he replied that the airline's current job is focusing on its present network.

Code sharing 

In 1996, KLM launched its code-sharing cooperation with China Southern Airlines, a member of the SkyTeam Alliance, on the route from Amsterdam to Beijing. It later expanded this to more routes.

However, China Southern left the SkyTeam Alliance in late 2018.

When asked if its departure from the alliance would hurt the cooperation between the two carriers, Elbers said that they would maintain their code-sharing relationship. 

Currently, China Southern Airlines has a daily direct flight to Amsterdam from Beijing and Guangzhou.

KLM has carried out code sharing cooperation with Xiamen Airlines from 2012. In July 2015, with the support of KLM, Xiamen Airlines opened its Xiamen-Amsterdam route. 

On October 16, China Eastern announced its intention to enter into a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM, providing more valuable and attractive joint commercial propositions for customers traveling between Europe and China.      

The strengthened cooperation will offer increased customer benefits including more travel options and optimized connectivity across Europe and China, further facilitated by a developed joint network, as well as competitive joint commercial propositions, according to a note China Eastern sent to the Global Times. 

Insiders said that at present, competition in the aviation market between China and Europe has gradually begun to emerge from its early chaos, and that a group-based competition trend based on aviation alliances and airline business cooperation has slowly formed.