China airspace rules, airport congestion hurting industry - Cathay Pacific CEO


HONG KONG (XFN-ASIA) - China's tight control over airspace is causing

air traffic jams and fuel waste and is capping growth in Hong Kong's

airline industry, media reports quoted Cathay Pacific Airways' CEO

Philip Chen as saying.

China bound flights from Hong Kong are restricted to a single cross border route with no alternative paths available in the event of bad weather.

And congestion at airports like Shanghai or Beijing often affect air traffic in Hong Kong and strand passengers here, the Financial Times reported.

Chen said the growing congestion at Hong Kong's international airport is a serious issue whose resolution is "primarily a question of determination and (is) not a technical problem." "The current situation is choking growth rates -- immediate action is required," he was quoted as saying.

The report said inflexible management of China's airspace has hit Cathay's subsidiary Dragonair which serves more China routes than any other overseas airline.

The carrier reported that 20-25 pct of its flights are delayed by more than 30 minutes during peak summer travel season. The report also said an "invisible wall" between Hong Kong and China, which aircraft are required to fly over by Chinese authorities, has forced flights to make long and expensive detours over the South China Sea before landing in Hong Kong or after taking off.

Cathay estimated this has cost airlines 100,000 tonnes in unnecessary fuel burn every year.

It has been suggested that a third runaway should be built to ease congestion as well as to fend off competition from nearby southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

However, Chen said a new runway will not alleviate the insufficient time slots at the local airport if the problem of limited airspace is not cleared up first, according to the South China Morning Post.

He said the problem would be resolved through better coordination with the other four airports in the manufacturing Pearl River Delta region in southern China, enabling aircraft departures from both runways.

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