China is always ‘the next big thing.’ That was true 10 years ago and it seems like it will be true 10 years from now.
Airlines are betting big on China, since the U.S. and China don’t have Open Skies airlines have to fight for the best routes and then squat on them hoping they’ll be more valuable in the future. In a sense it’s like Havana service but with bigger stakes.
Though this policy may change, Chinese carriers squat on the strangest of routes because their government doesn’t permit more than one Chinese airline to fly the same route. They can’t start service which duplicates an existing flight by a Chinese carrier, and any route they start cannot be duplicated by a Chinese competitor.
Delta bought itself a Shanghai hub with its investment in China Eastern. American figured if Delta did that it must make sense so they invested in China Southern (which is widely expected to leave SkyTeam).
And United made a bit investment in China by serving not just Beijing and Shanghai but also secondary cities (which are still huge by US standards) Xi’an, Hangzhou and Chengdu. Last fall they dropped their 3 times weekly San Francisco – Hangzhou service (Sichuan Airlines flies Hangzhou – Los Angeles 3 times weekly, but other service is connecting.).
American and Delta offer two free checked bags for economy passengers between the US and China. United announced that as of today they’re matching, offering two free checked bags when traveling from North America to China and Hong Kong.
- Oddly customers already received this benefit when departing China, just not when departing the U.S.
- And the benefit doesn’t apply to their flight to the Republic of China (San Francisco – Taipei) just to the People’s Republic of China.
This removes a pain point where United wasn’t competitive with other carriers, something they need to be if they want to bet on China as ‘the next big thing’ or at least compete on those routes where other airlines fly — to Shanghai and Beijing.