With Low Cost Carriers vigorously resuming to roll out new brands, new outreach, new destinations and new bases like never seen before, partnerships seems like an unnecessary consolidating move. Why join them when you can beat them?
Although surely we have seen much speculation, interest and activity in regards to LCC affiliations, partnerships, and even equity stakes. With United’s stake in Azul Linhas Aéreas, Delta’s with GOL, Ryanair’s venture on the TATL market with subsequent partnerships, and speculation of Easyjet with Lufthansa Group, all these seem to have a full-service carrier playing the stakes to bring capacity growth to their business risk-free, while providing the yields for affiliate LCCs which carry connecting passengers on mostly regional/short-haul city pairs.
But this announcement today unequivocally brakes the ice on trends mentioned above, and brings collectivist mutual growth under this new alliance. With promises for “affordable accessibility”, 18th January 2016 marks the launch of the World’s First Low-Cost Carrier Alliance. As of what we know now, the U-FLY Alliance currently comprises four LCCs, and aspires to have more to join in the future.
The 4 LCCs include Hong Kong’s HK Express, Kunming’s Lucky Air, Urumqi Air and Chongqing’s West Air. This collectively allows code-sharing, joint-bookings, and through check-ins for 168 city pair options (with network-alignment resuming to churn more). The partnership enables:
- Convenient Schedules: To provide convenient departure and arrival times, U-FLY Alliance member airlines will optimise flight connections within the alliance network, thereby reducing connecting times.
- Airport Transit: As part of the U-FLY Alliance roll-out, enhanced airport procedures to facilitate streamlined interline transfers across airlines will be put in place in due course.
- One-stop-shop: Online Information The official website of the U-FLY Alliance, (http://www.uflyalliance.com/), provides comprehensive information about the alliance and the airline members. Flight schedules, route maps and promotion updates are also available on the website. Guests can freely access a wealth of information to make planning their trips easier.
- Smoother Ticket Purchase: With flights bookable through travel agents (Amadeus/Galileo contracts under review) initially, but soon via each airline’s website (predominately interlines, and potential for code-sharing after regulatory approval)
The current group collectively have 67 Aircraft (mainly A320/737 series, with 200 by 2020), 85 destinations, 17.1m passengers, 298 daily flights, and bases at Hong Kong, Kunming, Chengdu, Lijiang, Urumqi, Chongqing and Zhengzhou.
Current Airline Profiles as follows (as seen on uflyalliance.com):
- Lucky Air is a Kunming-based low-cost carrier and the second largest airline in Kunming. Since its first flight launched in 2006, Lucky Air has been focusing on building its network covering major cities in Mainland China as well as Southeast Asian region. Lucky Air today operates a fleet of 28 aircraft and flies to 69 routes including 9 regional and international routes. With its rapid growth and development, it has achieved 13.6% and 21.86% of market share in Kunming and Lijiang airline markets respectively.
- Launched in August 2014, Urumqi Air is the first low-cost carrier based in Urumqi. It currently operates a fleet of 6 aircraft with flight service covering the Xinjiang region. With its mission “Based In Xinjiang, Serve the Country”, Urumqi Air will further develop its route map to major cities in Mainland China and international travel destinations. To cater the airline’s expansion, it is expected to expand the fleet to 12 aircraft in the future.
- Based in Chongqing, West Air commenced its first flight in June 2007. Today it flies to nearly 40 routes and operates a fleet of 21 aircraft. As a low-cost carrier, West Air aims at growing its Airbus fleet to 60 aircraft in coming 3-5 years so as to support the growth of network. It is expected to further expand its footprints in major domestic cities in Mainland China as well as international destinations. West Air has flown more than 5 million guests in 2015.
- HK Express is Hong Kong’s low-fare airline. Independent flight statistic monitoring website flightstats.com has already Updated on 2016/01/15 recognised HK Express for its top On-Time-Performance (OTP) rate. The airline has become a leader in the Hong Kong aviation industry by concentrating on low fares, best-in-class on-time performance and safety while revolutionising air travel throughout the Asia market. The airline also received a “7-star safety rating” – the highest ranking possible, as well as a recognition of one of the world’s 10 safest low-fare airlines from airlineratings.com, an independent, industry-respected research group. HK Express flies to 20 of the most popular destinations in Asia with a fleet of 13 aircraft. Its committed fleet growth is 39 aircraft by end of 2018, with target of 50 aircraft by end of 2018. With its fast growing fleet and enticing number of destinations, HK Express has flown 3 million Guests – a major achievement that attests to the popularity of the airline.
The U-Fly (Headquartered in Hong Kong) executive management include;
- Chairman & President Ma Zhimin (HK Express)
- CEO Andrew Cowen
- Board Directors Ding Yong Zheng (Lucky Air), Zhu Tao (West Air) and Cen Jian Jun (Urumqi Air)