China Southern Airlines plans to grow fleet to 2,000 planes by 2035: CEO

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China Southern Airlines 600029.SS1055.HK plans to more than double the size of its fleet to 2,000 aircraft by 2035 and is exploring ways to cooperate with low-cost carriers, its chief executive said at a conference on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: View of the first Airbus A380 delivered to China Southern Airlines during a ceremony at the Airbus Delivery Center in Colomiers near Toulouse, France October 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles/File Photo

Tan Wangeng told the World Routes conference that China’s largest carrier by passenger numbers is also looking to fly to South America within the next three years, according to the official conference website.

“By 2020 there will be 200 million outbound tourists from China. This provides us with a lot of opportunities for development,” Tan told the conference in Guangzhou.

“We plan to have 1,000 aircraft by 2020 and by 2035 it will increase to 2,000,” he was quoted as saying.

The company said last month that it had a fleet of 786 passenger and cargo aircraft at the end of June.

China Southern was not immediately able to confirm Tan’s comments.

Tan said the airline was looking for ways to cope with a rising number of budget carriers, especially in China and Southeast Asia where they compete for market share.

“All major airlines need partners and we are looking into the possibility of establishing more joint ventures. We haven’t tried with low-cost carriers yet, but we are considering how to cooperate with them,” he said.

Chinese airlines, including the firm's main rivals Air China 601111.SS0753.HK and China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS0670.HK, have been aggressively expanding their fleets and launching new routes in response to booming travel demand in the country.

However, passenger returns are now falling on some routes due to stiffer competition and the impact of higher capacity.

U.S. planemaker Boeing CO BA.N predicted last week that Chinese airlines will buy 7,690 new planes worth $1.2 trillion over the next two decades, higher than previously forecast.

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Darren Schuettler