China acts to reduce flight delays

Beijing Capital International Airport, Picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Beijing Capital International Airport,
Picture courtesy Wikipedia Commons

A recent survey by US-based FlightStats ranked Beijing and Shanghai at the bottom of 35 international airports with the worst record for on-time arrivals and departures. Apparently, according to South China Post, none of China’s provincial airports could manage to get half of their flights on time.

Chinese travellers are not taking all this passively. In response, the Chinese government announced that a six-month crackdown would be launched to improve the performance, complete with penalties for the culprit –whether an airline, the airport or some other party. Airlines found responsible for delays may also lose their slots.

There are more than 180 commercial airports in China and another 80 are being constructed. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has issued Air Operator Certificate to more than 30 airlines.

China’s straightforward ruling may prove to be more effective than the soft approach adopted by many authorities around the world. It goes directly to the parties concerned, and while travellers may not receive compensation from the fines levied by the authorities, they will benefit from improved performance overall. However, defining responsibility may be an issue especially where there are possible areas of conflict. Apparently, CAAC controls the order of take-offs and landings while the Military controls the airspace.

In the European Union (EU), USA and Canada, the focus is more on compensation for travellers who have been unnecessarily inconvenienced by flight delays. The EU has taken several airlines to task for that, but unfortunately the process is tedious, complicated by vague definitions of terms.

Ultimately, it is the same end – whatever the means, but a question of how to make it work more effectively. In six months’ time, we will know if Chinese airlines, airports and other related agencies heed their government’s behest.


China optimistic about its aviation future


CHINA is optimistic about its aviation future even as the International Air Transport Association (Iata) for the third consecutive year slashed its annual profit forecast by at least half. This year’s profits are expected to fall from last year’s US$7.9 billion to US$3.0 billion. Iata chief Tony Tyler said: “The industry’s profitability is balancing on a knife edge.”

But China has reasons to smile. After all, Asia is the industry’s star player and China its main driver. Last year Chinese carriers contributed to half of the industry’s global profits. Going forward, China has announced plans for 70 new airports in the next three years and expansion of 100 existing airports – an unprecedented move on such a scale by any country.

Chinese carriers too are poised for expansion and growth, both domestically and internationally. Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said the country would add more than 300 aircraft a year from now until 2015. Air China for one, which has a fleet of 250 aircraft, will expand its fleet to 700 in five years.

Foreign carriers eyeing the Chinese pie too have reasons to smile. Qantas is launching Jetstar Hong Kong in a joint venture with China Eastern Airlines, and has not given up on an Asia-based premium airline to cater to China’s growing nouveau riche. Air Canada becomes the latest foreign airline to express interest in a budget carrier connecting North America and China and other Asian destinations, noting how Chinese carriers have also increased their presence in Canada.

It looks like 2012, which coincides with the propitious Year of the Dragon of the Lunar calendar, belongs to China, whose optimism provides a valuable lesson for the rest of the aviation world: the engine of growth must be sustained. Waiting helplessly for some more airlines to join busted European airlines Spanair and Malev may well turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So said one of the speakers, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar al-Baker, at the Iata summit:: “When we meet again next year there will be far fewer of you sitting there.”