Just how much the switch to e-tickets will help isn't known but anything would seem worth a try: Jet fuel costs, up 91% year-on-year in the first quarter, topping RMB4, 620 (US$557) per tonne, sank first-quarter results at several airlines. Guangzhou-based China Southern, the second worst-performing stock on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, posted a first-quarter loss of RMB285m, while first-quarter net profit at Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines Corp declined 73% to RMB50.4m (US$6.07m).
CAAC said it has chosen two airports to pilot projects that would lead to nationwide e-ticket implementation by 2007. China Southern, which issued the country's first e-ticket in 2000, said e-ticketing saved the carrier about RMB100m (US$12.04m) in operational costs last year.
Despite high fuel prices, airlines continue to gear up for surging travel in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China Southern, the country's largest carrier by fleet size, and its unit Xiamen Airlines said they have agreed to buy 45 Boeing planes for up to US$3bn, raising their load capacity by 15%. Earlier, the airline agreed to buy five Airbus A380 super-jumbos while China Eastern Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines purchased 10 Airbus jets.
China is expected to amass a fleet of 2,800 aircraft in the next two decades and become the world's second-largest after the US. Top line data also bear out predictions that industry profits could reach US$1bn for 2005, as reported by Bloomberg. China Southern had 9.46 million passengers in the first quarter, up 48% year on year, while cargo volume increased 28% to 158,240 tonnes on sales of RMB8.3bn (US$1bn), up 58% from a year ago.
China Eastern's passengers rose 3.3% to 4.06 million in the first quarter, with cargo volume up 9.8% to 159,320 tonnes on sales of RMB4.8bn (US$587m), up 9% year-on-year.