Airports need better orchestration
Senior managers participating in an aviation symposium suggested Thursday that airports in the Yangtze River Delta should co-ordinate their work to avoid wasted marketplace competition.
This is because the Yangtze River Delta has become the world's most congested air zone with 0.8 airports per 10,000 square kilometres, topping the US average of 0.6 per cent.
"Firm measures should be taken to co-ordinate airports in order to raise their competitive edge," said Dragonair Chief Executive Officer Stanley Hui.
Dragonair now has 250 flights per week to the Chinese mainland with 47 per cent to the Yangtze River Delta area.
He told participants at the three-day aviation event, which closes Friday, that airports in the region should be positioned in three tiers.
He suggested that Shanghai airports should be developed into an air hub for the Asia-Pacific Rim, connecting the world's major cities by long-haul flights.
Airports in Nanjing, Hangzhou and Ningbo could serve as secondary links with nearby countries and regions such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as capital cities of other provinces.
The rest of the region's airports, smaller in scale, could be turned into low-cost cargo airports.
"A three-tier airport network could also result in the establishment of a comprehensive road and railway system," Hui said.
He cited the Pearl River Delta as an example, saying that Dragonair has decreased its weekly flights on the air route from Guangzhou to Hong Kong from more than 10 to 15 in years past to the current four, because a smooth highway and railway system in the region has been established.
However, according to a top regional civil aviation official, more so-called "feeder"airports will be built in East China in the near future to allow more remote areas to enjoy air services.
"A long-term plan is being mapped out to accomplish the objective in phases," said Xia Xinghua, director of CAAC (General Administration of Civil Aviation of China) East Regional Administration.
Eight new feeder airports will be launched and some trunk-line airports will be expanded before 2020, Xia said.
He said passengers and cargo handled by feeder airports in East China are expected to rise from the current 6.3 per cent and 1.8 per cent of the region's total to 10 per cent and 6 per cent by 2020.
Air passengers and cargo in the region will reach 105 million and 5.6 million tons in 2010, and 165 million and 9.6 million in 2020.
Xia said the regional administration will focus on three aviation markets in the Shandong Peninsula, the Yangtze River Delta and the coastal area in Fujian Province.
"Feeder lines in East China will play a supporting role in helping distribute passengers and cargo of the Shanghai air hub," he said.
By 2020, Shanghai will have to handle 80 million air passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo.
Xia's words were echoed by provincial government officials who favour more feeder line air routes to meet the growing demands of tourism.
Li Quanlin, vice-governor of Jiangsu Province, said efforts will be made to open more feeder flights connecting with neighbouring medium-sized cities such as Changzhou and Nantong.
The Yangtze River Delta will hold 18 airports by 2005, five more than the Pearl River Delta. But Hui said regional airports have difficulty attracting airlines and most airports are losing money.
A survey showed that 90 per cent of China's 143 airports lost 800 million yuan (US$97 million) in 2001.
"At present, airport capacity in the Yangtze River Delta far exceeds demand. The region has a heavy airport density," he said.
He called on efforts to solve some unseen administrative barriers and avoid unco-ordinated development which may lead to unnecessary competition.