Two bits of interesting aviation news today. First, Beijing Capital airport (already the world’s third busiest airport) has promised that foreign airlines will be given more flight slots.
According to Xinhua, He Yan, who is responsible for allocating those all-important slots at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said the whole slot-distribution system will go online in August. Airlines can then scrutinise the allocation of slots and complain to CAAC if they feel hard done-by.
The new transparency comes after a number of unnamed CAAC officials were put under investigation for taking bribes in exchange for flight slots. Foreign airlines, who I imagine are less likely to bribe officials, have found it pretty tough to get hold of any prime-time slots at the airport.
"These past problems were caused by individuals’ lack of virtue and a flawed system. Government distribution of flight slots, instead of other ways like bidding, is still the most viable solution," said Mr He.
Beijing Capital airport is hoping to become the main hub for East and South East Asia and currently handles 1,400 flights a day, or a maximum of 83 flights per hour. Currently, 24 foreign airlines are applying for 27 flight slots at the airport and Mr He says they are considering moving some domestic flights to Shijiazhuang, in Hebei, to free up space. Passengers will then travel for free between Shijiazhuang and Beijing on the new 40-minute high-speed rail link, which is about to be completed.
You can only marvel at that kind of infrastructure, although if I were a passenger, I would be pretty annoyed to find my flight routed to Shijiazhuang…
Meanwhile, Spring Airlines has become the first private airline in China to have an international route. Spring is now flying to Ibaraki, around 80km away from Tokyo, three times a week from Shanghai using an Airbus A320 charter. Shanghai to Tokyo is one of the most profitable routes that airlines have, with most charging upwards of 3,000 rmb for the two-hour trip. Spring is charging 599 rmb ($88) and up.