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New Air Route to Cut Flying Time to Europe


China will open a new air route for international traffic tomorrow, a move that could reduce flight times between China and Europe by an average of 30 minutes and save airlines US$30 million in fuel cost every year. "Initially, 110 flights a week could benefit from the route, including those linking Europe and Southeast Asia," said Gunther Matschnigg, the International Air Transport Association (IATA)'s senior vice-president for safety, operations and infrastructure. Flights from Europe to Manila, for example, have to stop at Bangkok to refuel. But the new route will make non-stop flights possible. "The opening of the new route demonstrates the Chinese Government's determination to increase the efficiency of its air space, which is definitely needed to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing," Matschnigg said at a press conference on Monday. "We expect a traffic increase of at least 50 per cent in China by 2008, plus about 15 per cent more for the Games itself." Officials from the Air Traffic Management Bureau and the General Administration of Civil Aviation declined to comment on the new route. The route, also called IATA-1, is an alternative to the existing route that is just north of the Himalaya Mountains. Airlines using the old route have to be specially fitted out for high altitudes, which require additional oxygen equipment. The extra weight results in more fuel being used. If they want to avoid flying over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, airlines have to take a large detour over the northern part of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. But the IATA-1 is a short cut to the south of that route that also bypasses the plateau. The IATA started discussions with the Chinese Government about the new route back in 2000. "There was lots of time spent in negotiations with the Chinese military force that controls the nation's air space, designing escape routes, and installing and testing new equipment for air traffic control in that remote area," Matschnigg said. "We appreciate the co-operation shown by the Chinese Government in better using its airspace at a time when the airline industry is bleeding from record high oil prices," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's director-general and chief executive officer. The new route will eliminate 2,860 hours of flying time, 27,000 tons of fuel, 84,800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 340 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions annually, the IATA said. Matschnigg said the IATA is in talks with the authorities about opening other air routes over China. Currently, only 30 per cent of Chinese airspace is available for civil aviation. The IATA represents around 265 airlines that comprise 94 per cent of international scheduled air traffic.

(Source:China Daily , 2006-04-12)