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.

Singapore Airlines to Launch Flights to Seattle in 2019

Singapore Airlines Resumes World's Longest Flight

Korean Air to Start Flights to Boston in 2019

Cathay Pacific to launch Hong Kong-Seattle service

Japan Airlines to Launch Flights to Seattle

Singapore Airlines To Start Non-Stop Singapore-Los Angeles Flights in November

Philippine Airlines to Start Non-Stop New York-Manila Flights

ANA to start flights to Perth, Australia


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.

Philippine Airlines Awarded 4-Star Rating from US Aviation Group APEX

Japan Airlines named 5-Star Airline by Skytrax

Singapore Airlines named Skytrax Best Airline for 2018

Changi Airport Voted Best Airport in 2018 Skytrax Survey

Philippine Airlines Achieves 4-Star Skytrax Rating


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.

San Miguel Group Looking to Start Work on New Manila Airport in 2019

China is Looking to Build 216 New Airports by 2035

New Bohol Airport to Begin Operations

New Vietnam Air Hub Could Begin Construction in 2020

Indonesian Airport Authority Proposes New USD $10 Billion Airport for Jakarta

A Peek at Cebu Airport's New Terminal


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.

Jeju Air Places Order for 40 Boeing 737 MAX jets

VietJet Places Order for 100 Boeing 737 MAX

AirAsia Places USD $30 Billion Order for 100 Airbus A330neo Jets

VietJet to Acquire 50 Additional Airbus A321neo Jets


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.

EVA Air's New 787 Cabin

Juneyao Air Releases Photos of New 787 Cabin

Hong Kong Airlines to Upgrade Business Class Seats on New A350s

Air Asia Releases Details on New, Sleek Seats

Singapore Airlines Reveals New Regional Business Class Seat


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.

China Southern to Leave SkyTeam

AirAsia Expecting to Launch Vietnam Venture in August 2019

Indonesia AirAsia X to Cease Scheduled Operations in January

Garuda Indonesia to Open Up Connections to US with New Agreement with Japan Airlines

Norwegian to End its London-Singapore Flights

Delta, Incheon Airport Partners Up to Develop Leading Hub in Northeast Asia

JAL and Hawaiian Airlines File for Joint Venture

ANA to merge low cost subsidiaries Peach and Vanilla Air


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.

Cathay Pacific Announces Data Breach That Affects Over 9 Million Customers

Shanghai airport introduces Facial Recognition Technology for Check-In

Hong Kong Airport Installs Facial Recognition Technology

SKYdeals Looks to Digitize the Inflight Shopping Experience

Singapore Airlines to Create New Digital Wallet

Air Asia Launches Facial Recognition System for Boarding Passengers

Kansai Airport Unveils AI Check-In Kiosks


Accidents/Incidents

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.

Lion Air Flight JT610

Xiamen Air MF8667

Typhoon Jebi Causes Flooding at Osaka's Kansai Airport


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