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United vies for China's mid-level market

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | | Updated: 2020-01-17 15:28
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United Airlines passenger jets taxi with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, US Dec 6, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

United Airlines is exploring options in the Chinese mid-level market, which is believed to contain huge potential according to a senior executive with the US carrier.

"China is absolutely one of the most important international markets for United Airlines," said Jake Cefolia, senior vice president of worldwide sales for United. "In fact we have been serving China longer than any other US airline, since 1983."

Despite its outstanding performance in China, there is still a missing piece of the puzzle for United to focus on in the coming years, which is the mid-level market.

"We do very well with multinational firms, we also do very well with leisure travelers," Cefolia said. "The area we haven't done well in is mid-market business travel, SME or SMB corporate travel. We do think there is tremendous opportunity and potential there, so I think over the next few years that's going to be more of a focus for us, because we think there is a lot of potential there."

The growing Chinese middle class and its upgraded consumption preferences are creating new demand in aviation.

The number of outbound leisure travelers from China has been on a rapid growth path with diversified requirements, Cefolia said, and the group shares a common preference — they want to be served in a style familiar to them.

According to Cefolia, United Airlines responded to such demand with comfortable and familiar service for Chinese passengers, including Chinese cuisine, slippers on board, Chinese language service professionals and Chinese-produced entertainment.

United is currently the largest US airline traveling between China and the US, with 90 weekly flights.

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