Sichuan Airlines Wants To Start Flying To Boston

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Per a filing with the US Department of Transportation, Sichuan Airlines wants to start operating nonstop flights between Chengdu and Boston. The airline proposes starting twice weekly flights around December 17, 2018, with the following schedule:

Chengdu to Boston departing 9:00PM arriving 12:15AM (+1 day) [Mon, Fri]
Boston to Chengdu departing 2:15AM arriving 6:35AM (+1 day) [Tue, Sat]

The airline intends to use an Airbus A350-900 for the route, featuring 331 seats. The airline doesn’t yet have any A350s in their fleet, but rather plans to take delivery of the first of the 14 they have on order in the coming months.

At 7,400 miles in each direction, this would be Sichuan Airlines’ longest proposed flight yet.

As of now, Sichuan Airlines’ only US destination is Los Angeles. They fly to LAX from both Jinan and Hangzhou, since they don’t currently have a plane that could operate a nonstop flight between Chengdu and Los Angeles (their longest range plane is the A330). I flew Sichuan Airlines in business class from Chengdu to Jinan to Los Angeles late last year, and had an… interesting experience.

So while it might seem weird that they’d choose Boston as their second US market, the reality is that China’s “one route, one airline” policy is still in effect (though it’s supposed to be repealed soon). With this policy, only one Chinese airline can fly a given longhaul route, unless a special exception is granted.

There are already nonstop flights on Hainan from Chengdu to Los Angeles and New York. So it seems clear here that Sichuan Airlines’ priority is being able to operate a nonstop flight from Chengdu to the US, rather than trying to fly to markets like New York or San Francisco with a stop in another Chinese city.

As I’ve often said, China’s current policy of only allowing one Chinese carrier per longhaul route can’t be repealed soon enough. If that happened:

  • Hainan would likely operate more flights nonstop from Beijing to US markets (which they’re currently restricted from doing due to Air China)
  • Then Sichuan could operate more nonstop flights from Chengdu to US markets

This is so much more rational, since it would allow all kinds of one-stop itineraries to points throughout Asia, rather than requiring a double connection. For example, if you want to fly from Los Angeles to Beijing on Sichuan Airlines, you have to double connect, which is absurd.

Bottom line

While this flight isn’t for sale yet, I see no reason it wouldn’t be approved and that Sichuan Airlines wouldn’t follow through on it. So I’d expect that by the end of this year or early next year, Sichuan Airlines will be flying to Boston. This would be Logan Airport’s sixth nonstop flight to Asia, after Japan Airlines’ flight to Tokyo Narita, Cathay Pacific’s flight to Hong Kong, Hainan’s flight to Beijing, Emirates’ flight to Dubai, and Qatar’s flight to Doha.

  1. No Chinese Airline flies SFO to Chengdu, only United does. So, they could fly there if they wanted.

    Of course, I would not be eager at all to fly them out of SFO to anywhere

  2. Sichuan Airlines wanted to fly to Zurich (forming a routing CTU-PRG-ZRH-PRG-CTU) starting March 31, but still hasn’t begun. Not even bookable on their website.

  3. Chinese college students in Boston and Chinese tourists. Those two factors help improve (although obviously not guarantee) the chances of this flight lasting.

  4. If they can’t fly to JFK given that Hainan already flies that route, I wonder why they don’t try flying from Chengdu to Newark instead of Boston. I also wonder why they chose Boston over Chicago, Toronto or Washington, which seem like more obvious choices over Boston.

  5. Why would you ever connect via Chengdu to get between Beijing and LAX? Intentionally overfly Beijing and skip the nonstop options?

    That’s a customer who has lots of time – not a priority for policy.

  6. Sichuan wants to fly to another US location? After reading your review of them, I only have this to say.

    God help us all.

  7. it is really interesting to see a westerner’s perspective on 3U flights. actually, 3U has gained a somewhat god tier status amongst Chinese for their business catering since it has such great variety in J, especially on regional routes. Every single Chinese friend I talked to wanted to take 3U in J and begged me for mile strategies (lol). it seems like the fact that they let you take food “to go” captivated a huge chunk of Chinese expats’ hearts. Chinese do not care about hard product, and speaking Chinese on a carrier like 3U really helps with soft product. Meanwhile, others avoid it like a plague haha!

  8. Maybe they’ll have a lounge for their business class pax, which they don’t at LAX

  9. This won’t only be for students. Chengdu is a big tech town, and Sichuan’s strategy is clearly to connect it to other tech centers (i.e., Boston, Tel Aviv, San, Zurich (UA already has SFO covered).

    In addition, Chengdu is one of the nicest and most interesting cities in China, and one of the greatest gastronomic destinations in the world, and should be a destination for US tourists.

  10. If you ever saw what kinds of cars Chinese students driving in Boston, ya’ll would not ever have these questions.

  11. Although I understand why competition can be good, does it really add as much value with Chinese carriers?

    Yes. It’s a pain to connect twice if you use Sichuan airlines from LAX to Beijing.

    That’s why you’d take Air China from LAX to PEK

    Sure, I guess you’d have another choice but I’m Not sure prices would change or either airline would compete on service if both airlines operated the flight since China isn’t really a full market economy anyway

    A smarter strategy would be for China to hub its airlines even more

  12. @d3King China is a big place and Chengdu is also a big tech hub. Shenzhen is more small manufacturing/assembly related but most of the large computer and telecom hardware and software manufacturers and developers have significant presence in Chengdu Lan De (perhaps because Sichuan University is a big tech school). The automotive industry is a massive presence nearby in Chongqing, the largest metro area in the world at the moment.

  13. This will be the 8th Asian flight since El Al flies Boston-Tel Aviv

    I think within 5 years there will be #9 and #10: Seoul and either Mumbai or Delhi.

    If China axes one route/one airline – does Hainan focus only on Beijing? Doesn’t the US have a say in how many frequencies are used in Tier I cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou). That would still need to be ironed out.

  14. I cannot undestand why every time BOS is mentioned on this website, there will be some comments on how unbeliveable BOS is chosen over Chicago, Toronto etc. Do you guys even know that Boston is both an education hub *and* a biomedical research hub? There are tons of college students and grad students and postdocs and visiting professors etc from not just MIT and Harvard, but also Boston U, Boston College, Northeastern, Tuft, Brandeis etc – more than a few dozen, I would say. And that’s just one part. The other part are the other tons of medical residents and fellows and researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, various Pharmaceutical companies. And oh, separate from biotech, both microsoft and google have offices in Boston. Chicago? Toronto? *yawn*

  15. It’s nearly December and no further word on this route. It would be their longest route with a plane they’ve just taken on, so I’d expect (if it even happens) a late Q1 start.

    But to echo the comment above, Boston is punching way above its weight class with most Asian/Middle East flights running mid-90% LF (and they aren’t giving away the seats, either).

    Someone mentioned India. Emirates and Qatar largely feed that need now. The financial woes of Indian airlines means that the route will probably go unserved.

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