A well researched Canadian report about the stifling of airline competition in China, and the lack of low cost carriers, touches on all the sore points for Asia’s major budget carrier franchises, AirAsia, Jetstar and Tiger.

It also covers the back-to-the-past arguments that are far from dead in Australia from those who want to see the reregulation of carriers to stifle Virgin Australia, and somehow save jobs in Qantas by collapsing domestic and international demand, and stuffing the jobs generated by tourism and airports.

In short, its a great read for everyone looking for a brawl.

It is easy to find the good things in China’s centralist, planned approach to air transport, if the policy imperative is to prevent growth overwhelming the provision of infrastructure and the maturing of flight safety standards.

But without growth, continuation of those investments in standards, infrastructure, and lower emission fuel and maintenance efficient airliners doesn’t make sense.Talking to those who fly far more in China than the writer ever will, the consumer experience is largely one of delays, lack of accountability, and comparatively higher fares, (if expressed in terms of affordability for the newly affluent).

But on the upside flying in China has also become incredibly safe, and the major newer airports shame those of much of the western world.

Maybe the sensible answer to this dilemma is to recognise what the policy of putting standards before growth has achieved, and move to the next stage, as the US did in 1979, and Australia did in 1989, and make way for unprotected competition, something which in America and here saw a huge increase air travel, and higher levels of safety and reliability that are to a considerable degree the result of better technology as well as the risks to a brand of safety standards failures. Or the merits of not butchering your customers, if you want it in plain language.

China is literally encircled by the ambitions of AirAsia, Jetstar and Tiger, with ‘expeditionary’ incursions to various cities from hubs like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, liberated by prolonged pressure for capacity to be found in most cases within existing bi-lateral traffic agreements.

The danger for these external franchises including Qantas subsidiary Jetstar is Beijing’s natural tendency to want to see any low cost carrier growth in China occur in China carriers firmly under the grip of the rules and practices of centralist policy controllers, or,  the Party, if you want that in plain language.

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