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Congestion in the skies to be eased


The country will soon open more overseas and domestic air routes to ease congestion in the skies and meet traffic needs in the run-up to, and during, the 2008 Olympic Games. There are at least 170 flights between Beijing and 17 European cities each week, according to sources with the Beijing Capital International Airport, and the number is expected to soar by 2008. Gunther Matschnigg, the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) senior vice-president for safety, operations and infrastructure, expects a traffic increase of at least 50 per cent in China by 2008 and about 15 per cent more during the Games itself. In April, a new air route was opened between China and Europe that reduced travel time by half an hour and saves airlines about US$30 million each year in fuel costs.
According to the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) website, parallel routes are proposed from Beijing to Japan and South Korea and a new route to Mongolia. Each week, there are 186 flights from the capital to Japan and 154 to South Korea. Though it is not clear how many people from these countries will visit in 2008, the capital airport which handles 35 million passengers a year now is likely to face great pressure. The expansion of the airport will enable it to handle 60 million passengers a year by 2015. Domestically, CAAC will open an air route over the ocean between Shanghai and Hong Kong; and second routes from Beijing to Shanghai and Guangzhou. "That will be great news for airlines," said Wang Yongsheng, spokesman for Air China, told China Daily. Air traffic control is one of the major reasons for delays in flights between the major cities in the countries. "With these routes added, more flights can arrive on time and fewer planes need to circle around waiting for permission to land, which means airlines can cut costs and improve efficiency," said Wang. The CAAC will also improve radar navigation and other information systems in Beijing area. An air control region with terminals shared by both military and civil aviation will be set up in Beijing before the end of 2007. CAAC and Boeing have also signed a pact in which the two sides will join hands to study the operation of three runways in Beijing, the administration said on its website. A third runway will be added to the Beijing Capital International Airport under the expansion project. Trials involving three runways will start next October, and the third runway will be operational in May 2008, said the CAAC.

(Source:China Daily , 2006-08-22)