As 2017 draws to a close, we've seen a competitive landscape in the Asia/Pacific region as airlines continue purchasing new planes and add more routes. While the competition has intensified between industry players, its been a year where new markets were opened and airports continue to develop and improve. The year also saw a bit of danger and fear, which has kept the aviation industry and travellers on the edge even while it continues its growth.
It's a time to recap the major developments that have affected travellers and the aviation/travel industry in the Asia/Pacific region this year.
1. Air Asia's New Routes
For Air Asia, it's been a year of expansion. From it's base in Kuala Lumpur to its branded subsidiaries throughout the region, the airline is continuing to strengthen its market share in key markets such as in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Air Asia X has also seen new route additions to Japan and Honolulu, Hawaii, and is still set on adding new long distance routes into its network.
2017 also saw the return of Air Asia Japan, which resumed service from its base in Nagoya's Chubu Centrair Airport to the city of Sapporo in northern Japan.
2. Ultra Long-Haul and Longer Low-Cost Flights
The competition between Low-cost and Legacy carriers has intensified on long distance flights. With the emergence of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, low cost carriers such as Air Asia X and Scoot have begun to add new routes from Southeast Asia to North America and Europe. Hong Kong Airlines has stepped up to challenge Cathay Pacific on routes it to the United States such as Hong Kong-San Francisco, Hong Kong-Los Angeles, and Hong Kong-New York. The airline currently flies to Los Angeles, and plans to start services to San Francisco and New York in 2018.
As low-cost carriers enter the longhaul flights scene, some legacy carriers are also using the very same 787s and A350s to launch new long haul flights and push the boundaries of distances flown. The legacy carriers such as United has launched flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, a route which has not seen a non-stop service between the two cities. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways launched non-stop service between Doha and Auckland - which is currently the longest commercial flight in the world.
Airlines such as Qantas have within the year issued a new challenge for plane manufacturers: produce aircraft for ultra-long haul travel on routes such as Brisbane-Paris and Melbourne-New York.
3. New Terminals and Airports
2017 was also a year of construction and improvements made in airports within Asia, as governments and aviation authorities recognize the needs of the expanding aviation industry in the region.
Beijing's new Daxing Airport is still undergoing construction, and Seoul's Incheon expects to open a new terminal in February 2018. Not to be outdone, Hong Kong's aviation authorities has announced it is working on building a new terminal and runway on reclaimed land besides the current airport. Philippine government officials recently awarded a contract for the development of Clark International Airport, with hopes it will help alleviate the long-standing problem of air traffic congestion at Manila's Ninoy Aquino Airport.
While airports continue to develop and improve, Singapore Airport recently made the biggest headline regarding airports with the new Terminal 4 opening at Changi Airport. Travellers were able to experience the new technology that has helped the airport reduce human staff in inspection lines and check-in.
4. Decline of the Jumbo jets
2017 proved that a bigger sized aircraft isn't always everything, but rather fuel efficency. While airlines accepted more deliveries of Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, 2017 saw the decline in interest in the A380, which has led many industry insiders to question if the A380 could soon see its demise. Airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines have begun to shelve or retire some of their superjumbos.
While the fate of the A380 remains uncertain, airlines have continued to retire the iconic Boeing 747s from their fleets.
5. Premium Services
While passengers in Economy see smaller seats, airlines have stepped up their offerings in both Business and First Class. Airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines unveiled new First Class suites with features such as private suites and seats with an option for a "zero-gravity" configuration.
6. North Korea Affects Travel in the Region
When there is a geopolitical situation, chances are travel and tourism will be affected. This year saw a perfect example of the negative effects of geopolitical conflict. The tensions between North Korea and the United States saw an impact on the tourism industry of Guam, a US territory that North Korea threatened to attack. While air travel remained unaffected, airlines also responded by altering routes to avoid areas surrounding North Korea. The dangers of the tests were highlighted by a report that Cathay Pacific pilots flying between San Francisco to Hong Kong saw a missile break-up over Japan in November.
7. Cost Cutting at Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines
While low cost airlines like Air Asia and Cebu Pacific saw large growth, it has not been a great time for Asia's legacy carriers. This year saw announcements of restructuring involving job and cost cutting measures from both Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. The cuts have been attributed to the wide array of options for travellers in the region, and the continued presence of low cost carriers for flights within Asia and Middle East based carriers that sell tickets between Asia and other continents.