(Yicai Global) May 15 -- Civil aviation will play an important role in the connectivity of the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and was the focus of attention from from the aviation industry and participating countries during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing last weekend.
"The key to implement the Belt and Road construction for civil aviation industry is to build an 'Air Silk Road,' speeding up the construction of the multidimensional air corridor between China and the Belt and Road countries," Liu Shaoyong, chairman of China Eastern Air Holding Company (CEAH) said in an interview with Yicai Global.
Promoting the construction of the Air Silk Road centering on the Belt and Road is not simply about opening a few international routes, nor is it the local optimization of aviation operations, rather it is the advancement and promotion of aviation manufacturing, aviation hubs, air transport, aviation maintenance and finance and other related industries as part of a comprehensive "go global-effort," Liu stressed.
To create effective links with the Belt and Road strategy, China Eastern Airlines launched the "Europe Profit Plan" and "Pacific Plan." In 2016, China Eastern Airlines' international transport capacity increased by 28.8 percent, and the number of passengers and transit passengers increased by 8.2 percent and 24.2 percent, respectively, Liu said.
The aim of the so-called "Europe Profit Plan" is mainly to strengthen the European route market. At present, China Eastern Airlines has direct flights to nine cities in Europe including Paris, London, Frankfurt, Rome, Moscow, Amsterdam, Prague, Madrid, and St. Petersburg. The European route transport capacity increased by 25.5 percent last year compared to the year before.
The aim of the "Pacific Plan" is to expand the North American market. At present, China Eastern Airlines has direct flights to seven cities, including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Hawaii, Vancouver, and Toronto. Last year, the North American route transport capacity increased by 62.3 percent over 2015. The company also introduced Delta Airlines as a strategic investor, and the two sides have reached a global strategic cooperation agreement.
In addition, CEAH also set up an industrial investment company to explore investment and financing, industrial cultivation and capital integration business and look for acquisitions or equity participation opportunities for high-quality aviation resources along the Belt and Road.
However, Liu stressed that at present, the national security situation in some countries along the Belt and Road is not satisfactory and that relevant political, legal, cultural and market risks need to be taken into account.
China Eastern Air Holding Company is headquartered in Shanghai. It is one of the three major state-owned air transportation companies in China. Its subsidiary China Eastern Airlines Co. (SHA: 600115; HKG: 0670; NYSE: CEA) was the first Chinese aviation enterprise to be listed on the New York, Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchanges.