In December 2011 American Airlines and Hainan Airlines announced they would begin a transpacific codeshare arrangement. American would place its AA code on Hainan’s flights between Seattle and Beijing, and on domestic Chinese flights from Beijing. Hainan would place its HU code on American’s flights from Beijing to Chicago, and from Shanghai to Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as on connecting flights in North America on American.
(Click map below for expanded view of transpacific codeshare services:)
Each carrier’s rivals on either side of the Pacific had already created strong cooperative links (Air China and its subsidiary Shenzhen Airlines with Star Alliance partner United Airlines; China Southern and China Eastern with SkyTeam partner Delta), so travel industry observers figured a hookup between American and Hainan was likely as they were the last major carriers left unaffiliated.
Details of specific flight connections are still being worked out between the companies and are unlikely to be announced before Spring 2012. However, I’ve examined the current Winter 2012 timetables for each carrier to anticipate just what kinds of new connections are likely to be offered:
At Shanghai, neither carrier brings much to the relationship. The Chinese government allocates routes, fares, and frequencies among the various domestic carriers (much like how it was done in America pre-deregulation), picking who gets to dominate certain cities. The authorities have decided Hainan Airlines will have the slimmest presence in the country’s largest city – giving them only 7 daily flights from the international airport at Shanghai-Pudong, and just 5 daily flights from the downtown airport Shanghai-Hongqiao.
American’s arrival from Los Angeles gets in too late to connect to any HU departures at Pudong. The Chicago arrival comes in a bit earlier, allowing for connections to the major city Xi’an and resort center Haikou. Heading eastbound, there is a possible daily connection from Haikou to the Los Angeles flight, and on the Chicago flight, travelers from Haikou, Xi’an, and Lanzhou could make connections.
With these meager connecting opportunities in the People’s Republic, the value of the codeshare agreement as far as Shanghai is concerned is to help Hainan’s local sales team book more corporate travel into the U.S.A.
(Click map below for two-way connections via PVG:)
(Click map below for two-way connections via PVG:)
At Beijing, Hainan Airlines has a much stronger presence, running a connecting hub with multiple banks of flights to dozens of domestic cities – as well as a growing number of overseas destinations. The HU flights to and from Seattle connect smoothly to many Chinese cities. Hainan’s operation is based out of the “old” side of the airport; mostly in Terminal 2, with a few flights from Terminal 1 just next door.
American Airlines has a daily run from Beijing to Chicago. AA flight #186 leaves PEK at 6:55 am on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and at 7:55 am on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. This flight arrives ORD before breakfast and delivers connecting passengers to their final destinations in the Midwest and East Coast by lunchtime. AA flight #187 arrives inbound from Chicago at 11:30 pm Beijing time. American’s flights use the new Terminal 3 complex on the far side of the airport.
You may suspect that late-night arrivals and early-morning departures at Beijing don’t make for easy connections, and you would be correct. As it stands today, any connection heading into China or heading out to the U.S. would require an overnight stay in Beijing. (On the airport grounds are two full-service hotels: a Hilton and a Langham Place.)
The late-night-early-morning timing was not American Airlines’ choice; they had requested mid-day slots when the route was approved. The Beijing airport authority had other ideas. Perhaps now with a strong local advocate it might be possible to shift the timing of the Chicago run to allow for good connections on both ends so that AA and HU can both profit. (A separate question would be if American could move its flight to Terminal 2 to allow “walking” connections instead of requiring passengers to use shuttle buses.)
If we assume the timing for AA #186 and #187 stays as-is, early-morning departures from Beijing that American may want to put their code on could include:
Flights from these cities get into Beijing late at night, so may be potential code-share candidates:
Cities that have both inbound and outbound potential codeshare are shown on this map (click for larger view):
To recap, while the Hainan-American partnership is important, at present there are few new service possibilities for U.S.-originating passengers looking to travel beyond Beijing. If American’s Chicago-Beijing flights can be rescheduled, however, a significant number of new connections may become possible. The HU-AA connections through Shanghai will be useful for only one or two cities, and are not likely to develop further.
We will keep watching developments in this association with great interest – follow @weninchina on Twitter and bookmark this blog for the latest news.