By taking delivery of its first ever Boeing 777-300ER, China Southern Airline became Asia’s newest operator of Boeing’s highly successful higher passenger capacity long range -300ER variant offer of its 777 twin engine family.
The official acceptance ceremony held on February 25th 2014 at Boeing’s Everett facility highlight the new era that China’s largest carrier by fleet size was entering as another 9 new 777-300ER are scheduled to join the fleet through the year 2016 including 3 additional aircraft to be delivered this year alone.
A replacement for the 777-200ER
The new aircraft has been configured to accommodate 309 passengers in a four-class layout with 4 seats in First Class, 32 in Business Class, 44 in the ubiquitous Premium Economy Class in addition to the 227 Economy seats layered in 10 seats abreast. In this format the 777-300ER are set to relieve the 4 Boeing 777-200ER first acquired in 1997 and 1998 for which the carrier has already began the bidding process that will lead to the sale of the 4 aircraft.
The new aircraft which will first be deployed on the daily Guangzhou (CAN) and Shanghai (SHA) Hongqiao service this March and subsequently on the Guangzhou (CAN) to New York City (JFK) route this coming summer is well positioned to bring unprecedented value to the airline as a replacement for the 24 First class, 53 Business and 207 Economy (284 seats total) seats-configured 777-200ER particularly on the China – North American routes where these aircraft have already proven highly effective.
Modernizing The Fleet Around The A380
The deployment of the new aircraft also occurs in a context of a fleet modernization effort which was initiated by the entry in service of the 5 Airbus A380 from 2011 to 2013, the arrival of 8 state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner throughout 2013 (with one more 787 expected) together with the employment of a fairly young A330 fleet as the backbone of long haul service.
The acquisition of the 777-300ER may be proving critical for the carrier ability to establish its Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport as a credible hub for international long haul travel. This shortcoming proved too realistic in 2012 when the carrier A380 fleet was denied unrestricted access to the higher density international travelers market at Beijing International where it had sought to fill its A380 to profitable load factor. The subsequent re-deployment of the super jumbo on less traveled domestic routes instead, allowed the carrier to bleed 200 million Yuan analysts say. In fact in the absence of an aircraft type capable to seat more than 300 passengers in its fleet, China Southern would have been hard pressed to generate enough international passenger density at its Guangzhou hub to bring its 506-passengers A380 to decent load factors and profitable revenues. With a 309 passengers seating capacity, the Boeing 777-300ER can combine operational flexibility to operating economics in order to build the market brand that the carrier needs to attract more passengers to its hub.
Clearly the induction of the 777-300ER gives the carrier the ability to execute a strategy conducive to the consolidation and expansion of its Guangzhou operation into a fully fledged global hub for international travel by virtue of its twin engine operating economics paired with a 300-plus seating capacity well proven in high density long haul market where enhancing passenger comfort and building brand are a must. With the recent introduction of the state-of-the-art 787 Dreamliner for opening new direct long haul routes such as Vancouver – Guangzhou, the shift of the A380 fleet back to the international markets where a premium can best be extracted has already contributed to establishing Guangzhou at a reputable spot. With focus on the Guangzhou – Los Angeles route and the most competitive Guangzhou – Sydney “Kangaroo” route, the A380 can best benefit from the addition of the 777-300ER.