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China's first private airline ready to resume flights
Updated: 2008-12-31 19:50

BEIJING - Okey Airways (Okair), the country's first private air carrier, hoped to resume operation as soon as possible but was not sure about the exact date, the company's chief executive officer Liu Weining told Xinhua Wednesday.

"Shareholders and staff were all against suspension" and "really looked forward to the restart", he said, noting there would be a conference focusing on the issue. But no other details were given.

Wednesday's Beijing News newspaper reported that the firm was expected to resume operation on January 15, 2009, after it had ceased service on December 6  because of disputes among shareholders.

The company said it was preparing to resume business and planned to file an application next week. The carrier expected to lose nearly 100 million yuan in business during the December 6 to January 15 suspension period, according to the report.

An unnamed official from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said Okair had not submitted any application to resume operation to CAAC.

Wan Junjin, Okair's legal representative and chairman of Juneyao Group, the biggest shareholder, applied to the CAAC North China Regional Administration for suspension. The regional office approved the application and ordered the company to suspend its service from December 15 to January 15, 2009.

But the company suspended passenger service on December 6, 10 days ahead of schedule as a result of financial and management problems, according to a spokesman of Juneyao Group, a major shareholder of Okair.

Its partners - including airports, fuel suppliers and Fedex Express - all terminated their contracts with Okair.

Okair started cooperation with Fedex on freight service in 2006 and they signed a five-year contract. However, their cooperation came to halt after only one year and nine months.

"I felt so depressed about the loss", the newspaper cited an unnamed company senior official as saying, noting air companies faced a tough time this year but the private carrier had gained profits for its cooperation with Fedex.

Last month, Juneyao Group, which held a 63 percent stake in Okair, applied to the CAAC North China Regional Administration for withdrawal from the aviation firm, offering the explanation of fears over safety.