It’s been another year of Asian airlines and industry players furthering ambitions and pushing the limits of aviation technology and construction. While pushing for new flight distance records and expanding airports in the region to keep up with growing demands on the industry, Asian airports have continued to maintain their status as the best in the world. Regional carriers also bagged new global recognition for their services. New airports were opened and built, and airlines have made some business moves that will shape the future of air travel within the region. Below is a brief list and summary of what has happened over the past year in the Asian aviation industry.
New Long-Haul Routes
2018 saw the continued push the boundaries of modern aircraft technologies with the announcement of new non-stop trans-continental flights using Boeing 787 and/or Airbus A350 jets. Singapore Airlines resumed its 19-hour non-stop service from Singapore to New York/Newark in October, reclaiming the title of the “world’s longest flight” after it first ended in 2013. Along with its non-stop flights to Newark, Singapore Airlines led the way in 2018 with new long-haul services to Los Angles and a planned service to Seattle in 2019.
With Singapore Airlines’ announcement of its flights to Seattle, the “Emerald City” is shaping to be a new battleground for trans-Pacific travel with Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines announcing its own services to the Pacific Northwest.
The other notable airline making major news was Philippine Airlines entering into the ultra-long haul with its 16-hour, non-stop Manila – New York service. The non-stop service using Airbus A350 jets replaced the previous service that made a stop in Vancouver.
Notable Aviation Achievements
As Singapore’s Changi Airport again took the title as Skytrax’s World’s Best Airport, Singapore Airlines claimed the top spot as the best airline. As Singapore Airlines now reigns as the best airline in the world, Japan Airlines became the newest 5-star airline in the region.
The airline that saw more recognition was Philippine Airlines, which was upgraded to a 4-star Skytrax rating. The Manila-based airline is continuing its fleet upgrade as it continues its push to join the elite 5-star airline club by the year 2020.
Notable Aviation Infrastructure Projects
The Philippines is currently going through a continued push to upgrade its aviation infrastructure development with the opening of the new Terminal 2 at Mactan-Cebu Airport and the New Bohol Airport.
Along with the anticipated opening of the Beijing Daxing Airport in 2019, China is looking to add 216 airports by 2035, while Indonesia and Vietnam have revealed plans to build new air hubs to compete with other regional airports over the next decade.
Major Aircraft Orders
The aviation boom in Asia has benefited the two largest aircraft manufacturers – Airbus and Boeing – which saw notable orders from some of the region’s growing low cost carriers. Boeing saw large orders for its Boeing 737 Max from South Korea’s Jeju Air and VietJet. Airbus saw a large order worth USD $30 billion for new Airbus A330neos for AirAisa and an additional 50 Airbus A321neos for VietJet.
New Aircraft Deliveries/Interiors
Among the new fleet additions were Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s, with some airlines upgrading their cabins with larger seats, storage, and monitors.
Notable Business Moves
The year saw the struggle of low cost carriers in long-haul services, new joint ventures, and shifting alliances. Among the biggest headlines was China Southern’s decision to leave SkyTeam in 2019, and the start of the joint venture between Delta and Korean Air.
It was a rough year for for long-haul, low cost carriers. 2018 saw the end of Indonesia AirAsia X – the long-haul venture based in Bali – and Norwegian’s London-Singapore flights.
AI/Facial Recognition Technology Integration
Regional airlines and airports have begun integrating facial recognition technology to speed up the check-in and boarding processes. Other technologies being experimented on to improve traveler experiences include digital inflight shopping, blockchain, and Artificial Intelligence.
As airlines collect and use personal data to enhance customer experiences, the fears of a large data breach was realized when Cathay Pacific announced a data breach that affected more than 9 million frequent fliers. The data breach of Cathay Pacific has sparked discussions as to how secure is traveler data with airlines such as passport numbers and credit card numbers.
The most tragic story of the year was of Lion Air Flight JT610, which crashed minutes after take-off from Jakarta in late October. 189 passengers and crew were lost in the accident, which involved a recently delivered Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Ongoing investigations are looking into the cause of the accident, which we may find out more information in 2019.
While natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons force closures of airports for a days, two incidents strained two major air hubs in the region. In September, Typhoon Jebi caused flooding within the international terminal at Osaka’s Kansai Airport forcing flight cancellations for up to 2-3 weeks after the storm. Flights at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino Airport were interrupted for a few days after a Xiamen Air flight veered off the runway after touchdown during heavy rains.
Xiamen Air MF8667