Founder of first Sino-foreign airline company aims high

Updated: 2007-10-20 15:07

Chen Feng is in the spotlight again Friday as he unraveled plans for next year's inauguration of Grand China Air, a new carrier to consolidate four domestic airlines.

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The new company will consolidate operations of Hainan Airlines, Xinhua, Chang'an and Shanxi, said Chen, chairman of Hainan Airlines Co. Ltd., the parent company.

He said preparations will be finalized before the end of this year and the new carrier will be inaugurated early next year.

Hainan Airlines, based in Haikou, is China's fourth largest carrier, as well as its first ever Sino-foreign joint venture airline company, with international financier George Soros being one of its leading shareholders.

Chen is a delegate to the ongoing 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, representing the aviation sector.

"The congress is being held in a context where the Chinese economy is ever so closely related with the world's scenario," he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua. "It has mapped out strategies for China's development in the coming years, and boosted Chinese businesses' confidence to merge into the globalization drive."

In five years to come, Chen said he wishes to make Hainan Airlines one of the world's top 20 carriers in terms of seat occupancy rate, revenue and profits. "Chinese entrepreneurs should face up to the globalization drive."

Chen and his colleagues are aimed at improving services "to the levels of international bignames such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways".

When Chen attended the 16th Party Congress in 2002, he was struggling to make Hainan Airlines better known in China.

The past five years witnessed the company's total assets growing from 30 billion to 70 billion yuan, and its annual revenue doubling the 10 billion yuan reported in 2002. Its fleet has expanded to 130 planes and is growing by 20 to 30 a year.

In the recent two years, Hainan Airlines has opened a number of international routes linking major Chinese cities with Brussels, Osaka, Budapest and St Petersburg.

The carrier, founded in 1993, was a latecomer in China's aviation industry, compared with Air China and China Eastern Airlines. "Other carriers were already operating the more popular international routes, so we just filled in the gap," he said.

The company is also scheduled to open a new route to Angola this year, amid growing exchanges with Africa, said Chen.

Unlike most other delegates who wear suits and ties to the Party Congress, the 54-year-old Beijinger with a ready smile is dressed in a Mao's jacket. In his spare time he loves reading and calligraphy.

In his younger days Chen worked for the General Administration of Civil Aviation and studied in Germany. He moved to the southernmost island province of Hainan in 1990 to serve as Hainan governor's assistant in aviation affairs.

Hainan Airlines, upon its establishment in 1993, had only two rented Boeing 737 and 10 million yuan of total assets.

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