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China launches first express air service between Beijing and Shanghai

Updated: 2007-08-07 10:32

Five Chinese airlines on Monday jointly launched an express air service between Beijing and Shanghai, the first in the country, but the service will mean an end to hefty discounts on week-day flights.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which initiated the service, is promising a maximum three-hour turnaround from final check-in to baggage claim.

A total of 36 express flights were put into operation by Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, and Shanghai Airlines, taking off almost every half hour between the Beijing Capital International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.

The service included express check-in, security check, boarding gate and baggage claim services dedicated to the service at the two airports,said a CAAC spokesman.

Passengers would be allowed for the first time to transfer to the aircraft of any of the other four airlines at their destination, the spokesman said.

"It's much faster and more convenient now," said Wang Ruiming, a passenger at the Shanghai airport.

Previously, passengers could get discounts of up to 30 percent on their fares. But from Monday to Friday, all tickets will be sold at the full price of 1,130 yuan (149 U.S. dollars), and to prevent cut-throat competition, some airlines have proposed a maximum discount of 20 percent.

According to the CAAC plan, the period till October 27 will be the trial operation phase; the winter and spring will be the improvement stage; and the summer and autumn of next year will be the promotion and expansion phase.

Xia Xinghua, director of the CAAC's east China bureau, said if successful, it would expand to more major cities, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu.

At least 70 flights operate between Beijing and Shanghai every day, including the express service, but they struggle to meet the rising demand.

CAAC data shows that the Beijing-Shanghai route is the busiest domestic commercial route, taken by 4.18 million passengers last year, accounting for 2.98 percent of China's total civil aviation passenger numbers.