China Airlines Is Considering Adding Flights To Ontario, California

Filed Under: China Airlines

China Airlines is one of two (awesome) global airlines based in Taiwan, and their mainland US destinations include Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. For a while I’ve heard rumors of them considering adding flights to Ontario, California, though I didn’t imagine it would actually become a reality.

While the route isn’t yet official, China Airlines announced that they’re evaluating launching a flight between Taipei and Ontario. They claim that this route can “save on travel, immigration, and luggage pickup time” for passengers. California has a big Taiwanese population, and Taiwan is California’s 4th largest trading partner. Furthermore, travel from Taiwan to the US has increased by 30% since the visa waiver program was added.

Here’s what the press release says about the logic behind the route:

In July, Taoyuan City Mayor Wen-Tsan Chen traveled to the U.S. to sign a sister city agreement with San Bernardino County that strengthened cooperation between Taoyuan International Airport and Ontario International Airport. A market survey on the proposed Ontario route conducted by China Airlines also received an enthusiastic response as the airport is more convenient for travelers living on the east side of Greater Los Angeles. It will also dramatically cut travel, immigration and luggage pickup times.

The new route is now being studied by China Airlines and several recommendations have been proposed to Ontario International Airport. Necessary improvements are now being planned by Ontario as well. A formal agreement will be signed between the two parties to start the new service once all related preparations are completed.

China Airlines’ 777 business class

On one hand I could see the logic of such a route. There is a large Taiwanese population East of Los Angeles, and some might find flying out of Ontario more convenient than flying out of Los Angeles. I’m not sure how high yield that traffic is (I suspect a lot of it would be leisure traffic, and those passengers tend to be pretty price sensitive), so I question how much of a price premium they could command for the route. I suspect the costs to operate into Ontario are significantly lower than at LAX, and that China Airlines may even receive some sort of incentives for operating the route.

That being said, it’s my understanding that if this route happens, it would come at the expense of one of their two daily LAX flights, meaning they’d be down to one daily. They’d have virtually no connecting traffic on the Ontario route, so they’d just be serving the local community. Offering just one daily flight out of LAX while their biggest competitor offers 3x daily flights out of LAX doesn’t seem especially competitive.

On top of that, there have been rumors that China Airlines is considering cutting their JFK route due to huge losses, in which case their US network would be even weaker.

Bottom line

I’m curious to see if this new China Airlines route ends up happening. When I first heard this rumor I didn’t actually think it would happen, though now they’ve put out a press release about it, which makes me think it’s more likely to happen. While there’s no doubt some demand for the route, I still have to wonder how high yield that traffic is, and also what would happen if they cut their LAX route to once daily.

What do you make of China Airlines considering a route to Ontario, California?

(Tip of the hat to @JeffLiu9)

  1. Ontario lacks the facilities and transport infrastructure
    immigration is not even in one of the main terminals
    There is a huge investment in LAX – a new midfield satellite , terminal renovations and automated people mover
    A service to ONT would be entirely dependent on local traffic and more than likely very low yield
    CI at LAX has skyteam partners and lounge access
    My only experience of ONT is flying over it en-route to LAX. Never had any issues at LAX in more than 50 times I’ve passed through customs and immigration over the years
    It would be a very hard sell.
    Ontario ?? Toronto ??
    It would need to be sold as LA
    If only it had a train connection as good as that at Tokyo Narita which is equally distant from the central core

  2. China Airlines should see if they could exercise 5th freedom rights and operate Ontario – New York. They could then kill 2 birds with one stone.

  3. Ontario’s a super convenient airport if you’re in the area – even before pre-check, I never had wait times of more than 5 minutes at security. That said, its feasibility for China Airlines is questionable as you describe.

  4. @Anthony Adames , Is 5th freedom cover domestic flight in foreign country? I thought it has to be from second country to third country.

  5. Better off adding flights to Toronto, Ontario instead. Lots of connecting traffic onward to Southeast Asia.

  6. If this were to actually happen, I could see them downgauging both LAX flights to the A350, and picking up the slack with 3x/weekly A350 to ONT.

  7. Lu,

    What about Qantas operating their SYD-LAX-JFK and then reverse flight here in the US? Couldn’t China Airlines do the same with the ONT-JFK route?

  8. It sounds like they’re trying to shake down the local airport authority for massive subsidies andhoping this press release lights a fire

  9. If you live in Southern California you will know that a vest majority of Chinese/Taiwanese/Hong Kong lives in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angels. Getting to Ontario Airport is easier for many than to LAX. It is also can be accessed from Orange County and San Diego without too much difficulty, since the traffics are not as bad as going to LAX. Recently read in local Chinese newspaper that other airlines from Mainland China are considering Ontario, because it will be counted as a new destination, because only so many mainland airlines can have flights to LAX. There is no need for connection flights to other cities. Go look at the population number of Chinese in Southern California. Is at least more than half a million and probably more than that now.

  10. ONT traffic is way down, thanks to LAX prior ownership. They have plenty of room to expand and hopefully this is the beginning of a.n international expansion.

  11. I would fly this since I am out in Riverside area a lot and getting to LAX with traffic is very bad depending on time of day and where you are coming from!

  12. Who knows? They could just add 1x weekly to ONT on an A350 or something, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a daily or 3x weekly thing. Google flights show 14x weekly LAX on China and 21x weekly LAX on EVA, so I doubt China would be cutting from its LAX flights. a 1x weekly does sound like a viable option, as the majority of the people filling these planes are for leisure and doesn’t need that much of flexibility. If marketed well for the East Asian population in the region, I can see this somehow working out, rather than having those in the San Gabriel Valley go all the way to LAX.

  13. @Steve – The QF SYD-LAX-JFK flight can’t legally sell tickets just for the LAX-JFK segment. The flight works for them since passengers can connect at LAX for QF flights to/from BNE and MEL, effectively letting them offer JFK passengers service to three Australian destinations at the same time, which, along with being able to sell tickets between SYD and LAX as well, makes the flight viable.

    There’s no second Taiwanese destination with enough demand to let China Airlines operate a flight to/from ONT, so with a TOE-ONT-JFK flight the ONT-JFK segment would have to carry enough JFK-Taiwan passengers to cover the expense on its own. And there are already many airlines offering a one-stop JFK-TPE flight with convenient connections at ICN, HKG, etc.

  14. If they discontinue one of their LAX routes for this, does that mean they would operate a 777 to Ontario, or would they assign the 777 to an existing A350 route and instead use the A350 to operate the route?

  15. I think the likelihood of this happening is pretty low, but it would be pretty nice if it does. In the 80s and 90s, China Airlines was basically the only international carrier that used Haneda in Tokyo due to political concerns. But the Haneda’s proximity to Tokyo metro actually gave China Airlines a nice advantage.

  16. What if CI fly from TPE to JFK via ONT and sector between ONT and JFK can be sold only by delta airline which is one of skyteam member as well. I mean such sector become codeshare with delta. China airline can’t sell this sector air ticket. We’d have great transcon business and premium economy run by china airline staff not delta.

  17. Pretty good idea to offer at least a few times a week. There is a large Taiwanese population east of sgv in rancho Cucamonga and eastvale areas as well as large population in the area that will probbaly do a direct transfer to other s.e.a. Countries. In certain times of the day its almost two hours to get to lax while its maybe 20 min to ONT. That being said, it’s a lower income area conpared to lax so yields will probbaly be lower. I’m also thinking about how arrivals would work. Secondary Intl airports often times don’t have enough kiosks clearing arriving pax so you might have to wait a long time arriving.

  18. As a taiwanese residence living in orange county, i would welcome this in a heart beat. going to ontario sounds 100X better than going to lax simply because of the airport traffic

  19. I’m flying out of Ontario tonight for the first time. I’m looking forward to it since LAX is so far away. They should also consider an ONT-EWR route as there are no airlines that fly non-stop from Newark, NJ to Ontario. This would be very convenient for many in the New York metropolitan area.

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