Flying on Different Trajectories: Budget Airlines in India and China

Authors: John Bowen*, Central Washington University
Topics: Asia, Transportation Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: airline, India, China, budget airline, low cost carrier, mobility, high speed rail
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8216, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


China and India are both home to large and rapidly growing airline industries, but one key difference is the much greater penetration of low-cost carriers (LCCs) in the latter: in 2018, budget airlines accounted for nearly 60 percent of seat capacity in India but only about 12 percent in China. In India, the rise of LCCs has been fostered by deregulation and the weakness of state-owned flag carrier Air India. Nevertheless, continued state intervention in the industry has encumbered the country’s budget airlines, including a requirement to serve routes to poorer, peripheral parts of the country. In China, conversely, strong state favoritism for the country’s Big Three airline groups (led by Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines) and massive investment in high-speed rail have deterred the growth of LCCs. China’s largest budget airline, Spring Airlines, is only about a quarter the size of IndiGo, India’s largest. This paper reports on analyses of the LCCs' networks, their incorporation into the larger Asian airline industry, and their implications for mobility in the world's two most populous countries.

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