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A China Airlines flight lands at Yading Airport in Daocheng of Southwest China's Sichuan province on September 16, 2013. The airport, opened on Monday, is the world's highest at an elevation of 4,411 meters. It used to take a two-day drive from Chengdu, the province's capital city, to the nature-rich, mountainous tourism hotspot on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Now the 800km distance only takes a one-hour flight. [Photo/He Haiyang/Asianewsphoto]
CHENGDU - The world's highest-altitude civilian airport started operating on Monday in Southwest China's Sichuan province, dramatically shortening travel time between "the last Shangri-La" and the provincial capital.
Daocheng Yading Airport, located in Daocheng county, Garzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, will cut the traffic time between the county and the provincial capital of Chengdu from two days by bus to 65 minutes by plane.
The airport is 159 km from Yading Nature Reserve in the eastern part of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Yading is known as "the last Shangri-La" and "the last pure land on the blue planet" for its scenery.
Construction of the airport took two years with a total investment of 1.58 billion yuan ($255 million), after it was approved in April 2011.
Located 4,411 meters above sea level, it became the world's highest civilian airport, replacing Bangda Airport of Qamdo in Tibet autonomous region, which is 4,334 meters above sea level.
Daocheng Yading Airport will initially run a daily route between Chengdu and Daocheng, with a one-way ticket fare of 1,600 yuan.
Routes connecting Daocheng with Chongqing municipality, a southwest Chinese business hub, and Maerkang County, capital of Sichuan's Aba Tibetan-Qiang autonomous prefecture, are expected to open before October 1.
The airport also plans to open routes connecting the county to other cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Xi'an in 2014.