Airlines in China : Most Effective Marketing Strategies (2024)

This article is done by marketing experts in China, that work on daily marketing campaign on Search engines, douyin and social media

“Marketing to China” is a big step for every international airlines which want to develop their revenus in China. Very few companies are doing the right thing in China

To effectively market airlines in China in 2024, here are five strategies:

  1. Utilize Popular Social Media Platforms: Leverage platforms like WeChat, , Douyin, and Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) for marketing campaigns. These platforms have massive user bases and are essential for reaching Chinese consumers.
  2. Online Reputation Management: Maintain a strong online presence and reputation. Engage with customer feedback on various platforms and ensure prompt and professional responses to both positive and negative reviews.
  3. Chinese Website and SEO: Develop a Chinese website to rank efficiently on Baidu, the dominant search engine in China. The website should be optimized with relevant keywords and content to attract and engage Chinese consumers.
  4. Diverse Booking Options: Enable ticket bookings through a variety of channels including Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), WeChat, and your own website. This provides convenience and choice for customers.
  5. Influencer Marketing: Collaborate with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) and influencers, especially travel bloggers, to promote your airline. Influencers can effectively sway public opinion and decision-making among Chinese consumers.
  6. Quality Photos & Video for Social media : basic of engagement

Airlines in China face opportunities and challenges

China’s airlines face opportunities and challenges from expected increased market competition which begin to grow so fast. China’s big three airlines are Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines, and their subsidiary airlines have been a bright spot in the airline industry globally, averaging until recently returns of 15%.

China is moving ahead with new reforms which are being relaxed for the new entrant airlines. The goals of the reforms tend to increase market competition. As the demand for airline travel is growing up in China, the stage is set for market expansion.

Travel industry in China

Airlines Marketing

Travel in China is a huge industry. The number of travelers in China could easily rise by 50 or 60 %. Combined with China’s newly middle class, this segment will represent 80 % of urban consumption by 2022, up from 30% in 2012. With only 4 % of the population owning passports, China still surpassed the United States and Germany as the world’s leader in international travel since 2019.

key data points about Chinese airline passengers’ international travel in 2024:

  1. Overall Traveler Numbers: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) anticipates that global traveler numbers, including Chinese passengers, will reach 4.0 billion in 2024, surpassing pre-COVID-19 levels (103% of the 2019 total)​​.
  2. Chinese Outbound Travel Market: Mainland China was the world’s largest outbound travel market before the pandemic, with over 150 million outbound travelers in 2019. With the easing of COVID-19 safety measures, including the removal of quarantine on arrival from early 2023, a significant boost in air travel is expected​​.
  3. Desired Destinations and Intent to Travel Internationally: A McKinsey survey indicated that 40% of Chinese travelers wanted their next trip to be international, with preferred destinations including Australia/New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and Japan​​.
  4. Expected International Capacity Recovery: HSBC forecasts that international capacity for Chinese airlines in 2024 will be around 99% of the 2019 levels, a considerable increase from 44% reported in 2023. This is indicative of a robust recovery in international air travel for Chinese carriers​​.
  5. Record Profits for Chinese Carriers: The ‘Big Three’ Chinese airlines (Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines) are expected to see a strong recovery in their international networks and are projected to achieve record profits in 2024, driven by the restoration of international routes and easing overcapacity in the domestic market​​.

The Airlines agencies must change their marketing strategy in order to handle the new demand. In fact, actually, the distribution is disproportionately centered on direct sales and traditional travel agencies, with little e-commerce. The Airlines have to adapt the new marketing strategies to the new wave of Chinese millennial travelers (20- 30 years old), who are more open-mind, independent, looking forward to traveling. They are also Internet-savvy, 80 % of them are booking online.

The ultimate guide for Airlines Company

Airlines Marketing

Marketing airlines in China: is that so hard?

What challenges will you face when promoting your airline in China ?

With the drastic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Aviation and Tourism/Travel industry, Chinese airlines are coming up with many interesting deals, to attract potentials travelers. According to Civil Aviation, China has registered a deficit of RMB40 billion in the first part of 2020. At this moment China’s aviation industry is only starting to taking its first steps toward recovery.

Chinese airlines offer insanely cheap deals to lure back travelers

For example, earlier this year China Southern Airlines sold travel tickets at only 10% or even 20% of their original prices.

With the Chinese government’s intent to relaunch work and factories, domestic flights are slowly starting to resume, and as expected China’s national aviation industry is also warming up again. Because of the large-scale expansion of the Coronavirus cases overseas and as well as long-haul flight restrictions, international travel still shows a downhill trend. As many assume the improvement of international travel will require more time.

The local market is very well developed

The international market is experiencing speedy growth, mainly driven by an intense expansion from Chinese airlines. In recent years foreign airline companies have been steadily losing their market shares in China resulting in a decrease in foreign companies’ presence, especially in the global Asian area.

Interesting figures :

  • The number of Chinese airlines operating international services went from 15 to 29 over the last three years.
  • The number of Chinese airlines operating long-haul services has grown from four to 10 over the past four years.
  • Chinese airlines are pursuing a more rapid international expansion (2019), which will impact foreign competitors.


For your airline to succeed, you need a strong marketing plan

Get creative and think outside the box when promoting your airline in China

Ensure that you’re providing excellent customer service at all times, even if it’s not on time or delayed

Providing good customer service is all about building good relationships with your customers, being thankful to them, and promoting a positive, helpful, and friendly service that will ensure that they leave with a great impression of your brand.

Bear in mind, a  happy customer will return often and is likely to spend more !

Small tips on how to provide the best customer service :
  • Know what your customers expect to be good customer service and take the time to find out customers’ expectations.
  • Follow up on every review, both positive and negative feedback that you receive.
  • Continuously look for ways to improve the level of customer service that you deliver.
To build good customer relationships :
  • Greet customers and approach them in a way that is natural and fits the cultural values of the person.
  • Show customers that you understand what their needs are.
  • All of your staff need to have good communication and sales skills.

Get a chinese website so you can rank efficiently on Baidu

It is vital to have a website in Chinese to attract Chinese consumers. A Chinese website with the right keywords will allow you to rank higher on Baidu search engine which is China’s most used search engine. In addition, your website should also incorporate an easy online payment setup because Chinese tourists are very much used to this payment system.

Baidu is China’s largest search engine holding over 70% of the Chinese market share. The search engine accounts for 4 million searches per minute which is more than Google displays, Google sits at around 3 million searches a minute.

RED – Xiaohongshu marketing (instagram)

To effectively market an airline : GMA top tactics for Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu),

  1. Leverage Storytelling: Share engaging stories about destinations, in-flight experiences, or unique airline features. Storytelling resonates well with the Xiaohongshu audience.
  2. Use High-Quality Visual Content: Post visually appealing images and videos of destinations, aircraft interiors, and services. Xiaohongshu users appreciate high-quality visual content.
  3. Engage with User-Generated Content: Encourage and share user-generated content. Reposting customers’ travel stories and experiences can increase authenticity and engagement.
  4. Collaborate with KOLs and Influencers: Partner with Key Opinion Leaders and influencers who have a strong following on Xiaohongshu to reach a wider audience.
  5. Offer Exclusive Deals and Promotions: Use Xiaohongshu to offer exclusive deals or promotions, encouraging users to book directly through the platform or link to the airline’s booking page.

Implementing these strategies can help airlines effectively engage with the Chinese market through the Xiaohongshu platform.

Make it easy to book tickets: OTAs, WeChat, your own website

Allowing your clients to book their tickets easily and on a wide array of platforms, will make your customers more inclined to book their tickets with your company.

  • WeChat : The app started as an instant messaging app but now has developed an ecosystem where users can perform a wide variety of activities such as making transactions, ordering food, booking tickets, calling a taxi, playing games… The more users commit to Wechat and the longer time they spend on the app, the greater the marketing opportunities it offers.
  • OTAs : Chinese tourists usually book their hotel rooms through OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) or through the hotel’s official website. One of the most popular online booking websites in China is Ctrip, the leader in the industry. Ctrip provides all types of services from booking flight tickets, hotels, packages, to useful content about destinations and even reviews about hotels.
  • Your company’s website : The first step to having a presence in China and allowing potential tourists to learn about their structure is to create a website in Chinese. The truth however is that most Chinese people are not able to speak English, so it is essential to provide your company’s infos and services offer in Mandarin. It is therefore essential to provide relevant content and your website should provide information on what Chinese travelers want to know.

Promote your airlines in China with a social media campaign

Just like with any other type of marketing, the use of social media is the main strategy for most Chinese companies because it enables businesses to be viewed as less intrusive and it gives a more personalized feel for the consumer. Moreover, social media encourages their users to share posts and pictures which helps in spreading of word of mouth, another form of advertisement.

Use influencers marketing to promote your airlines in China

KOLs are key : Marketing your brand through the use of Chinese travel KOLs is a great way to increase your visibility on Chinese premier travel review platforms. China’s most popular KOLs have built incredible fanbases amounting to millions of followers through their credibility and professionalism in providing top-quality and trustworthy travel recommendations and info.

What is the right Airlines marketing strategy in China?

A Website host in China

China Airline website

It’s still more beneficial to have a Chinese website, for providing a better experience to your Chinese Customers. They trust and understand more a Chinese website than an English website. Keep in mind that Chinese customers get information online, so with nearly than 900 million internet users, it will be benefit for you to have a Chinese website.

Quality Video on Douyin are also important

For airlines looking to use GMA Douyin effectively, here are five tips:

  1. Create High-Quality Videos: Showcase your airline’s services, destinations, and unique experiences through visually appealing and high-quality video content.
  2. Leverage Influencers (KOLs): Collaborate with Key Opinion Leaders on Douyin to reach a wider audience. KOLs can create engaging content that resonates with their followers and promotes your airline.
  3. Utilize Targeted Ads: Use Douyin’s advertising platform to run targeted ads, offering deals and promotions specifically designed for travelers.
  4. Engage with the Audience: Interact with users by responding to comments, creating interactive content, and using trending hashtags to increase visibility.
  5. Share User-Generated Content: Encourage travelers to share their experiences with your airline on Douyin and repost this content to foster community engagement.

These strategies can help an airline to effectively engage with the Chinese market and promote its services on Douyin.

Last but not least, you must have a customer service available 24h/24, because Chinese travellers search information anytime and everywhere. For more credibility you have to be there to reply to any request around the clock.

For example, we worked with Aeroflot – Russian Airlines.

Airlines Marketing

In fact Aeroflot-Russian Airlines is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Russian Federation. Our Agency helped them to improve their website for the Chinese tourists.


  • Content Management
  • Social Media strategy

Result :

  • Strong E-Reputation on the Market
  • Good engagement on Forums / social Media

Having a good reputation online

Airlines Marketing

Online reputation is very important in China. Doesn’t matter if you have a good Chinese website or an affordable price, without good reputation, it means nothing.  So, every Airlines company has to work on its reputation, make sure that bad comments don’t affect your company. This is the reason why you have to work with a good digital marketing agency, for keeping your company image still high.

It’s also important, to consider PR and post press releases to communication about your Airlines Company and destinations.

booking platform

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After making sure that you have a good reputation and Chinese web site, Chinese travelers turn to the Booking platforms and forums, for more information. So for more visibility you have to be present on the booking platforms and forums such as CTrip, Qunar, lumama, Qyer , Mafengwo….

Social Media Marketing: your branding strategy in China for 2024

The Chinese social media landscape is very powerful. Now, every brand or company adopt the social media marketing as weapon for attracting more and more Chinese customers. It’s not fake news!!!

In fact, Wechat is the most popular Chinese social media, with more than 800 million active users, it take part of Chinese daily life through all its functionalities such as billing, booking, pay a taxi, …..

Moreover, we have Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter), with more than 550 million of active users. It’s also very used in China.

Travelers bloggers(KOLs)

Airlines Marketing

Actually, Chinese KOLs and Bloggers are big influencers. Every Chinese customers trust them. They are able to influence the Chinese customers’ decisions just through their posts, comments or video. So, it will be more profitable for Airlines Company to work with the Travelers bloggers in order to enhance the company image and generate more traffic.

Read also:

How to increase your Booking ? 

Airlines Marketing

It’s the process to convert a traditional user who visits your website ‘company or just wants to buy the aerial ticket you’re offering. So by extension, we can call it: Lead Generation, with the main goal to attract visitors to your platform and turning them into customers. Being able to have all the information about an user who approached you (name, email address, phone number, etc) is the key that make you tailor your offer and contact them.

You need a Tourism Marketing Agency specialized of the Chinese Market ?

Contact us to discuss your project in China !

Airlines Marketing

  • We have experience in Airlines Marketing in China.
  • We help you to develop your business in China with effective Solution
  • We have 7 years of experience in the Chinese market
Airlines Marketing

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