China Southern Airlines Co., Asia’s largest carrier by passenger numbers, expects to win approval to fly Airbus SAS A380s on overseas routes by early next year as it challenges Air China Ltd. for international travelers.
“It will happen within the next few months,” Chief Financial Officer Xu Jiebo said today by phone from Guangzhou. The carrier is talking to the Civil Aviation Administration of China about routes for the superjumbos, he said, without identifying possible destinations.
The airline, which received its first A380 in October, has so far only used the plane on domestic routes as it seeks authorization to begin international services. Airbus is due to hand over a second A380 to the Guangzhou, China-based carrier on Dec. 17.
China Southern, the nation’s biggest domestic airline, has ordered five A380s as it expands overseas because of international travel demand and rising competition at home from high-speed trains. The carrier aims to more than double the percentage of capacity deployed on overseas routes to 35 percent by 2015.
The company will also begin a service from Guangzhou to London’s Heathrow Airport starting June 6, Xu said. It will be China Southern’s third European route from its main hub after Paris and Amsterdam, he said.
Air China and China Eastern Airlines Corp. are also expanding their fleets and boosting overseas capacity as economic growth spurs travel. The number of Chinese travelers flying abroad this year may rise 13 percent to 65 million, according to the state-run China National Tourism Administration.