Chinese airlines haunted by poor punctuality will be forced to reduce flight and operating times, the top civil aviation watchdog said.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will request that airlines with a flight delay occurrence rate higher than the industry average reduce the number of flights and shorten their operating time, Xia Xinghua, deputy director of the administration, said at a conference on reducing flight delays in Xiamen, Fujian province, on Wednesday.
The CAAC also urged airlines to decrease delays that can be avoided by 10 percent by the end of the year.
Airports that fail to ensure that at least 90 percent of flights depart on time will not be allowed to expand their operations.
A statement released after the conference said though the CAAC has taken a series of measures to improve flight punctuality, it is still far from meeting the public's expectations.
The move came after a CAAC report disclosed that Chinese airlines' flight delays are worsening.
Despite efforts by airlines and civil aviation authorities to improve on-time performance, 630,000 flights of Chinese airlines in 2012 failed to take off or land on schedule, accounting for 25.2 percent of the total 2.5 million flights, according to the CAAC's annual industry report of 2012. The rate in 2011 was 22.8 percent.
Airlines were the biggest contributor to the delays, the report revealed, saying 38.5 percent of flight delays in 2012 were due to the airlines. However, it did not explain what the reasons were.
Air control measures contributed to 25 percent of delays and bad weather 21.6 percent.
Other unidentified factors led to 14.9 percent of delayed flights, according to the report.
Earlier media reports quoted Li Jiaxiang, director of the CAAC, as saying that the recent boom in renovation or expansion among Chinese airports has affected airlines' on-time performances.
More than 100 airports on the Chinese mainland are expected to be renovated or expanded during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), Li said.
He said the remarkable increase in extreme weather in recent years has also had an affect on airlines' punctuality.
According to the guidelines on civil aviation development issued by the central government last year, the CAAC and Chinese airlines are urged to make sure that more than 80 percent of flights perform on schedule by 2020.
"I hope their pledges and measures will not turn out to be empty gestures," said Wang Ketian, a marketing director at a software company in Beijing who said he frequently travels by air. "It seems like the CAAC and airlines just keep promising that they will take measures and make things better, but to be honest, I can't see any improvement in reducing delays."
His words were echoed by another frequent flyer.
Chen Xiaoxiang, a sales manager at a State-owned enterprise, said: "I have witnessed at least three incidents in which passengers stranded at airports have had physical conflicts with airlines' employees or security guards.
"And I can understand why they did this. Everyone became angry after their flight was delayed, and no one gave them a clear explanation."