New airspace routes opened to ease punctuality woes

Updated: 2011-12-16 07:24

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Airspace authorities opened new flight paths over North China on Thursday as officials look to reduce delays at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Seven fixed flight paths have been cleared for use, while another 13 temporary channels have been created or adjusted.

According to simulations run by the North China Air Traffic Management Bureau, if the number of flights remains the same, the new routes could help punctuality rise at Beijing Capital International Airport from the current 73 percent to 85 percent.

"With new roads in the sky, planes can enter and leave the airport using different paths," said Yan Xiaodong, the bureau's chief engineer. "In the past, planes flying between two cities used the same path, head on, which slowed down traffic flow."

Seventy-four million people passed through the airport's doors in 2010, a figure that is expected to exceed 80 million this year, making the airport the busiest in China and the second busiest in the world in terms of passenger volume.

Last year, the airport handled an average of 1,416 flights each day, up from 611 in 2000.

Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said earlier that the airport is so busy it is very difficult to find slots for new flights.

However, with the extra flight paths, Yan said the capital airport will be able to handle five more arrivals or departures an hour, nearly 600 a week.

"Although the additional capacity can't make delays disappear immediately, the airspace structure is improving," he added.

Passengers say the move is long overdue.

"I encountered delays several times this year," said Sang Jie, a Beijing resident and frequent flier. "We were kept waiting in our seats for an hour or longer before taking off.

"The captain always says it is because of air traffic control. If this happens too often, it's time for the authority to do something."

And it is not just passengers on flights leaving Beijing that will benefit.

In the past, aircraft were sometimes directed to a runway far from parking spots at one of the airport's three terminal buildings. Yan said the new routes will enable controllers to guide planes to runways closer to their gate, meaning passengers will not have to wait so long to disembark.

"A friend of mine told me his flight from Dalian (in Liaoning province) to Beijing took 45 minutes, but the plane took almost an hour to taxi from the runway to the terminal," Yan, the chief engineer, said.

Another official at the North China Air Traffic Management Bureau said that eight routes in and out of Qingdao, East China's Shandong province, had also been opened due to wide concerns about frequent flight delays.