Bud­get air­lines to get a boost from govt in 2014

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By XU WEI xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn Flight de­lays

The civil aviation au­thor­ity has given as­sur­ances that it will sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of low-cost air­lines next year, in a move that ex­perts say is aimed at help­ing Chi­nese air­lines sur­vive amid harsher mar­ket con­di­tions.

Ma­jor air­lines are en­cour­aged to es­tab­lish their own bud­get car­ri­ers, said Li Ji­ax­i­ang, head of the Civil Aviation Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China, at an an­nual con­fer­ence on Mon­day.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion will pro­vide them with con­ve­nience in the use of air­port ter­mi­nals, run­ways and park­ing aprons, he said.

More flex­i­ble poli­cies in terms of the open­ing of new air routes, air­line sched­ules and pric­ing schemes will also be im­ple­mented to sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of bud­get air­lines in the coun­try, he said.

“Low- cost air­lines fit the needs of the coun­try’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and the needs of the pub­lic,” he said.

The low-cost strat­egy will help ma­jor air­lines to re­duce their op­er­at­ing costs and cater to a mar­ket where an in­creas­ing num­ber of Chi­nese tourists travel abroad, he said.

More than 83 mil­lion tourists trav­eled abroad for sight­see­ing, leisure and shop­ping last year, up from 16.6 mil­lion in 2002, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

But the prof­its of some do­mes­tic air­lines were re­ported to be drop­ping this year, due to an eco­nomic slow-down and a weak­en­ing de­mand from busi­ness fly­ers, said Lin Zhi­jie, an in­dus­try an­a­lyst.

To make things worse, seven new high- speed rail lines have opened re­cently or are due to open, and more ex­press train ser­vices have been started be­tween cities far­ther apart, all of which are ex­pected to take pas­sen­gers away from the air­lines, he said.

Li Xiao­jin, a pro­fes­sor at Civil Aviation Univer­sity of China in Tian­jin, said de­vel­op­ing more low-cost air­lines could help car­ri­ers cope with the grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion from high-speed rail­ways.

“Bud­get air­lines will be pop­u­lar, as the coun­try has more peo­ple in the mid­dle­and low-in­come groups,” he said.

Zhang Wu’an, spokesman for Shang­hai- based bud­get car­rier Spring Air­lines, said the com­pany wel­comes the news, as it means more pol­icy sup­port for low-cost air­lines.

“A tree does not make a for­est. There is a chance that the new pol­icy could in­crease mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion, yet the in­crease in the num­ber of mar­ket play­ers will also make it eas­ier to seek more pol­icy sup­port,” he said.

Ear­lier this year, the civil aviation ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion jointly is­sued a cir­cu­lar and scrapped the lower limit for prices that an air­line can charge for tick­ets.

As for flight de­lays, Li Ji­ax­i­ang said flight de­lays will con­tinue to be a ma­jor tar­get of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s work next year.

He said flight punc­tu­al­ity was in­creased by nearly 10 per­cent­age points be­tween June and Novem­ber.

The in­crease came as re­sult of var­i­ous mea­sures, in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing an air route be­tween Bei­jing and Kun­ming and ask­ing planes to take off on time at eight big air­ports, re­gard­less of the des­ti­na­tion air­ports’ con­trol or­ders.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has also changed the way it de­fines whether a flight has left on time.

In the past, a flight was counted as punc­tual so long as the cabin doors were closed at the sched­uled de­par­ture time.

As a con­se­quence, even though air­lines knew some flights would not be able to take off soon, they forced pas­sen­gers to board planes on time and let them sit in the sul­try cabin for hours while the plane sat on the tar­mac.

Li said that now flights will be re­garded as punc­tual only when the planes start to taxi on the run­way at the sched­uled time.

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