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Airline's hotter revenue in July
( 2003-07-31 11:00)

China Eastern Airlines Corp said Wednesday passenger revenue in July doubled from June as the impact of the flu-like SARS virus eased.

"Passenger revenue in July has exceeded 800 million yuan (US$97 million), double that of the month before," the airline said in a statement. "The airline is welcoming its first spring since the end of SARS."

The airline has carried 1 million passengers this month, compared to 412,000 in June. June passenger traffic had fallen 47 per cent from the same month last year.

"Our business is in recovery, in sharp contrast with the sluggish business of weeks ago," said Ye Yigan, chairman of China Eastern.

The airline, the country's second largest carrier by fleet size, said it expected steady improvement in passenger figures from a trough in May, when it felt the worst impact from the SARS outbreak as traffic slumped 84 per cent on a year earlier.

China Eastern said at the end of June it would post a loss for the first half of 2003 due to the outbreak of the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome.

The airline Wednesday also received the delivery of the Airbus A340-600 aircraft, the world's longest commercial airliner.

China Eastern has become one of the world's first operators of A340-600s, together with Virgin Atlantic Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, South African Airways and Iberian Airlines.

"Entry of the A340-600 into service is a significant event showing China Eastern has started to walk out of the shadow of SARS," said Ye.

The airline plans to buy a total of 18 new aircraft this year. The A340-600 delivered yesterday was the first of five on order by the airline. Earlier in the year eight other aircraft were delivered.

The A340-600s, powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines, are capable of carrying 380 passengers over a range of up to 13,900 kilometres.

Another two A340-600s will be delivered in August and November respectively, said Sheng Biao, captain of the new plane.

Sheng will take off today with a delegation of more than 200 passengers for Bangkok, Thailand's capital in the new plane.

"When the aircraft returns to Shanghai, it will go into service on the air routes to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Seoul," he said.

The A340-600 aircraft will replace one of the three MD-11 aeroplanes, which have been in operation about 10 years, on the route from Shanghai to Los Angeles.

"As the other two A340-600s arrive this year, the three MD-11 aircraft will be retired to be refitted into cargo planes," said Sheng.

In addition to North America, the new A340-600s will also fly long haul routes to Europe and Australia.

At present, revenue from cross-border flights account for 52 per cent of the airlines' total.

The Shanghai-based carrier now has more than 90 large modern jets serving more than 50 international and regional air routes, and 150 domestic ones.

"We are trying to improve the transport network that links Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and Australia," said Li Fenghua, vice-president of China Eastern.

In August, China Eastern will restore its flights from Shanghai to Singapore to twice daily, a daily service to Paris and four weekly flights to Sydney.

It also plans to expand flights on the routes to Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong by co-operating with travel agencies and overseas airlines.

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