Air Transport World

Springing into success: as the most profitable Chinese LCC, Shanghai-based Spring Airlines aims to be the country's Southwest Airlines.(PROFILE)

HERB KELLEHER has never met Wang Zhenghua, and the legendary co-founder and former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines might be surprised to know that he inspired Wang to launch a low-fare airline in China that is built upon the same uncomplicated business model as SWA. "Kelleher is my idol as I learned a lot from him on how to operate a low-cost carrier, so Spring Airlines can only be the student of Southwest Airlines to some degree," the chairman of the Shanghai-based new entrant tells ATW here.

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Launched in July 2005, so far this "student's transcript" is quite impressive. Spring posted a net profit of CNY20 million in 2006, which more than tripled to CNY70 million ($10.2 million) one year later. Operating revenue was about CNY1.2 billion in 2007. Passenger boardings totaled 1.7 million with an average load factor of 95%, supported mainly by its typical "air travel plus tourism" business model as it has a quite popular tourist agency whose customers account for 30%-40% of its passenger makeup.

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Following the Southwest model, Spring operates a single fleet type, which Wang notes "can save pilots, training fees and MRO expenses." Its eight A320s are configured in a 186-seat, single-class layout. …

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