Foreign airlines face safety checks for entry
China is working to strengthen safety supervision over foreign air carriers while speeding its opening-up drive.
Starting next year, foreign airlines who apply for passenger or cargo business in China will have to undergo a qualification examination from regional civil aviation authorities before entering the vast aviation market.
All foreign airlines that have been operating flights in the country will also have to undergo similar examinations before 2007.
A new regulation on airline management was mapped out by the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), the industry watchdog. It is expected to take effect next year and covers foreign flights landing in and taking off from China.
The regulation aims to regulate the management of foreign carriers and ensure safer flights, said Wang Changshun, CAAC's vice-director.
Based on the minimum safety criteria defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the regulation simplifies the procedure of examination and approval for market access but stress safety supervision.
According to the regulation, airlines which operate less than 10 flights a year or carry out a specific contract during a certain period -- during the period of Olympic Games, for instance -- are exempt from the examination.
With the opening-up of the nation's aviation market, the number of foreign airlines that operate in China is on the rise.
Some 74 foreign airlines operate regular flights in the country and the number of planes landing in or taking off from Chinese airports amounts to 500 per day, according to CAAC's statistics.
Their performance has a bearing on the nation's aviation safety as well as that of people and property on the ground, Wang said.
Airlines are expected to meet the standards of the individual countries where they operate as well as international safety standards, said an official from the CAAC's Department of International Co-operation on condition of anonymity.
"Although CAAC has attached importance to safety supervision of foreign airlines in the past, there were no regulations to standardize management," he said.
In the past, foreign airlines could operate after CAAC approved them, he added.
According to an interpretation of the new regulation from CAAC, some countries, including the United States, have regulations on safety examination for foreign airlines while others are also working towards them.
It has become an international practice to conduct safety examination and supervision over foreign airlines, the official said.
Foreign airlines including Lufthansa and KLM declined to comment on the regulation.