China Southern Airlines missed a target date for introducing Airbus SAS A380s on international flights from Beijing, prolonging a more than a year-long struggle to gain access to slots in the nation's capital.
The carrier expected to start flying A380s to Paris from Beijing last month, it said in August. That was pending final agreement about plans to co-operate on the route with Air China, the nation's biggest airline.
Spokesmen for both airlines could not be reached for comment on the delay.
China Southern's struggle to enter Beijing reflected how government policies were limiting competition between the nation's big three state-controlled carriers on overseas routes, said Will Horton, an analyst with CAPA Centre for Aviation.
The delay has left China Southern mainly flying its four 506-seat A380s on domestic routes from its base in Guangzhou.
"In almost no other market could this have occurred," Horton said. "It is head-scratching and alludes to how Chinese aviation still needs major development to catch up with the rest of the world."
Air China has a lock on Beijing routes because of the aviation landscape established by the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the industry regulator, according to Li Yanhua, a professor at Tianjin-based Civil Aviation University of China.
China Eastern Airlines similarly controls Shanghai, the nation's financial capital, while China Southern has Guangzhou.
"The regulator doesn't favour direct or major competition among domestic players on key routes," Li said. "If China Southern gets the right to fly Beijing-Paris directly, it will be a blow to Air China."
Air China is the nation's biggest international carrier. China Southern is the biggest on domestic routes and the largest in Asia by passenger numbers.
The lack of domestic competition for Air China means that Air France-KLM is the only other carrier operating direct Beijing-Paris flights. The two airlines offered about 14,203 seats on the route in the week ended September 30, making it the fourth-biggest by capacity between China and Europe, according to CAPA.