Air Macau is considering opening routes to the United States and Europe, which it will serve by adding new Airbus widebody jets to its fleet. The airline is reportedly interested in the Airbus A330 or the Airbus A350 for this fleet expansion.
According to reports by ATW Online, the flag carrier of the Chinese special administrative region of Macau is considering new long-haul routes.
Air Macau currently operates a fleet of 21 aircraft, all of which are short-to-medium range Airbus jets. This current fleet doesn’t allow the airline to extend its flight offering much further than its local region in Asia.
Air Macau has been performing well recently. In the third quarter of this year, the airline enjoyed a year-on-year passenger growth of 16.1%. The airline’s freight arm also enjoyed a strong year-on-year growth of 15.4% in the third quarter, bucking the general downward trend across the industry.
In the wider context of Macau itself, the city’s tourist economy is booming, and its casinos are a particular draw. Year-on-year, passenger numbers at Macau Airport were up 17% in the third quarter of 2019.
Why is Air Macau planning an expansion now?
Although Air Macau has been performing well recently, plans to launch long-haul international flights to the US and Europe is a big step up. However, the recent performance of a number of its regional competitors may have provided the motivation Air Macau needed to take the leap into the long-haul market.
As we are all aware, 2019 has been a tough year for Macau’s fellow Chinese special administrative region, Hong Kong.
Widespread protests and disruption have had a severe negative effect on the city’s economy and an arguably even greater negative effect on the city’s airlines. Passenger numbers are down across the board and tourists, especially from China, are making fewer and fewer trips to Hong Kong.
One of the region’s leading airlines, Cathay Pacific, has been especially hard hit by Hong Kong’s current political climate. As a result, Air Macau may well have spotted an opportunity to develop its own business as its Hong Kong rivals continue to struggle.
Macau and Hong Kong are less than 50 miles apart as the crow flies, so Air Macau is perfectly positioned to pick up passengers who would usually fly with Hong Kong-based airlines.
A wise decision in the long run?
While it may seem like a savvy business decision to launch long-haul flights to the US and Europe while Hong Kong’s airlines are under pressure, it is still a significant gamble. Depending on how the situation in Hong Kong progresses over the coming months, most of the damage could be reversed reasonably quickly.
Cathay Pacific is already set up for high-volume, long-haul flights out of Hong Kong. If it returned to business as normal, Air Macau could quickly come to regret its decision. Air Macau has, however, confirmed that it will not be making any decision on routes to the US and Europe, or the acquisition of widebody jets, without detailed planning and assessment.