Xiamen Airlines brightens strong financial reputation with new transcontinental flights
Xiamen Airlines boasts a unique record in the history of Chinese civil aviation: It has been profitable for 31 consecutive years since 1987. No other airline comes anywhere close.
On Tuesday, the airline launched direct flights between Fuzhou and Paris, making the capital of Fujian province a gateway for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Xiamen Airlines said it has made Fujian an air transport hub with intercontinental flights as well as flights to Southeast Asian countries.
Xiamen Airlines' strong financials are borne out by details. Last year, the carrier's sales revenue was nearly 30 billion yuan ($4.36 billion), up 20 percent year-on-year.
In the past five years, its revenue per available seat mile－it's an aviation metric that denotes profitability－was 12 percent higher than the industry average.
Costs were almost 89 percent of revenue, 5 percentage points lower than the industry average, according to Xiamen Airlines.
Che Shanglun, chairman of Xiamen Airlines, said a simpler fleet composition, precise flight operations and budget management have helped the carrier to lower its costs.
Currently, Xiamen Airlines was the only airline that owns a whole Boeing fleet in China. In 1998, the airline received its first B737 NG. In May this year, it received its first B737 MAX, also its 200th Boeing aircraft, doubling the fleet size from the level in 2013. The average aircraft age is 5, according to the company.
"There are good relations between Xiamen Airlines of China and Boeing of the United States. By 2035, Xiamen Airlines is expected to have 560 aircraft, which will be similar to the current fleet size of China Southern Airlines. We will become a globally competitive carrier," said Che, who became the general manager of Xiamen Airlines in 2009.
Restricted by the airspace conditions along the southeastern coast of China, the overall daily utilization rate of its aircraft is not high, Che said. So, the airline has been endeavoring to raise the utilization rate of every hour, to ensure that for busy seasons and on hot routes, the rate could reach around 100 percent.
Since 2015, Xiamen Airlines started to accelerate its expansion into global markets with the launch of direct international flights to major overseas destinations.
In July 2015, it launched the first intercontinental flight between Xiamen and Amsterdam, and later launched flights from Xiamen or from the nearby Fuzhou in Fujian province, to Sydney, Melbourne, Vancouver, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles.
Close attention to detail and caring for employees have made working at the company a joy for everyone. Happy human resources contribute to the airline's growth, too, Che said.
An aviation veteran, his hands-on work style and down-to-earth personality are part of industry folklore. With foresight, enterprise and enthusiasm, he has been piloting the airline for years.
He is known to wake up at 4 am and reach office cafeteria early to ensure it's operating well and crew like the food. He also greets and chitchats with chefs and waiters by names. The latter, it is said, are made to feel at ease during such interactions with the bossman.
A frequent traveler, Che would often visit plane cleaners and shake hands with them or hug the porters upon returning from business trips. But being a people person has never made him any less a hard taskmaster, his colleagues said.
A colleague of Che shared an anecdote. When Che heard from a crew that the hotel in Quanzhou, Fujian province, where they stayed, was noisy, and its pillows uncomfortable, he checked into the same hotel when he visited the city.
After verifying facts, Che got the hotel to sound-proof its windows and provide four varieties of pillows in the rooms the airline's crew stayed in.
Owing to his busy work schedule, Che never gets to enjoy full weekend and regular exercise. So he compensates by walking quickly around the office if he ever gets some free time after work.