In another development in the China-North America market, Hainan Airlines has changed the service start for its Beijing-Chicago service. Originally due to commence in Mar-2013 with a 787-8, that date became increasingly unlikely in late 2012 as China's regulator, the CAAC, had not yet certified the aircraft (various theories abound for the lengthy process).
Hainan was to be the second Chinese 787 customer after China Southern. Both had aircraft assembled and largely waiting for delivery. Although Hainan's 28-Jan-2013 decision to commence the four-weekly route from 03-Sep-2013 with two-class A330-200s instead of two-class 787-8s came shortly after the worldwide grounding of the 787, the evaluation had likely been well underway prior to the grounding. Before the grounding there were reports Chinese carriers would not receive the 787 until 2H2013, leaving nearly a full-year delay due to Chinese regulators.
With schedules now loaded, the carrier can begin discussions to codeshare with American Airlines. The two already codeshare on other routes. Although American serves Beijing from Chicago, this is unlikely to negatively impact a decision. Indeed, it could be advantageous as it offers additional frequency. For American Airlines, Hainan's schedule would offer better Beijing slots too.
There is little prospect of Hainan being permitted to compete internationally on a level with Air China in the medium term, but the Chicago route is significant for Hainan as, although it already serves Seattle and Toronto, this will be its first major long-haul destination – and, it hopes, the first of more to come in a growing Chinese market.
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