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China's civil aviation fleet set to double in 5 yrs

2010-10-29 10:47

BEIJING - China's civil aviation fleet is set to nearly double to about 5,000 aircraft in five years, a top civil aviation official said on Thursday.

Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said on the sidelines of a forum on civil aviation development in Beijing that some "450 million to 500 million passenger trips" are expected to be made annually by the end of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period, up from 230 million in 2009.

The country's civil aviation fleet will have 4,800 to 5,000 planes to transport passengers and cargo in the next five years, up from the current 2,600 planes, he said.

It is the first time the CAAC has made public its forecast for the next five-year period.

Li said China's aviation industry has witnessed double-digit growth in the past five years, and "this pace will not slow down in the coming five years".

Since 1978, when China adopted the reform and opening-up policy, the civil aviation sector has developed at an astonishing speed of 17.2 percent annually.

"Our forecast, based on industry trends as well as the surging social and economic demand for air transport, shows the speed of development will remain this way for a long period," Li said.

The CAAC aims to sharpen the competitive edge of China's air transport industry in the next two decades, and the following five years are believed to be very important to help fulfill the goal.

According to the CAAC, it plans to use the next 20 years to build China into a "civil aviation power" and develop a "safe, efficient and green" air transport industry.

The administration's targets include 1.5 billion passenger trips a year by 2030, which will make China the largest air transport market in the world, good safety record and service, and punctuality of scheduled flights to reach 85 percent or even better.

However, these ambitious goals will need more supportive measures, Li said.

The proposal for the 12th Five-Year Plan released on Wednesday includes measures to "optimize the layout of airports" and "reform of the airspace management system" in the next five years.

The country's civil aviation sector is facing increasing competition from the fast-sprawling high-speed rail network, which excels when it comes to punctuality and geological proximity to city centers.

China has planned to build a 13,000-km high-speed railway network by 2012.

Industry insiders feel that improving on flight punctuality, instead of cutting prices, will be the key to gain a foothold in the transport market.

Zhao Jian, a transport professor at the Beijing Jiaotong University, said the CAAC should also relax control and allow more budget and regional airlines to operate, besides welcoming more private airlines in the competition.

The price of air tickets is still too high for a section of the public because the major players in the market are State-owned, he added.

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