Wednesday, 5 August 2015

China's Strangled Air Space

Shenzhen Airport is being punished for delays partly not of its own doing
Er... we don't quite understand why China's Civil Aviation Administration is punishing Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport for flight delays, saying they had caused "significant social impact".

Flight on-time rates have dropped to a decade-low, and now the airport in southern China is not allowed to accept new flights, routes and charters until the end of the year, according to the regulator.

The ban will affect Shenzhen airport's income as it makes most of it from charter flights, while it won't affect major airlines too much.

It also reprimanded Shenzhen Airlines and China United Airlines for a series of incidents in which a passenger opened a plane's emergency door after another fainted while being stuck on board for four hours waiting to take off.

Frustrated passengers created chaos in May after flight delays
Flight delays have dropped for the fourth consecutive year to just 68 percent last year, the lowest rate since data was made available in 2006. The flights were delayed an average of 19 minutes last year, an improvement of two minutes from 2013.

However isn't the authority punishing the wrong people?

It should really take this issue up with the People's Liberation Army, which controls China's airspace, only 20 percent of which is open for civilian use. And the air force has been using the air space a lot these days, conducting frequent drills.

"There will only be more and bigger drills. That will become the norm," said retired PLA general Xu Guangyu.

It seems not many people -- mainland passengers know that the PLA monopolizes the air space and only allows commercial flights to take off and land when it is done with training and such.

No one explicitly explains the reasons behind these delays and so mainlanders think it's the airlines' fault, when it's really the PLA. If they knew the truth, how would these passengers react? Would they be understanding because they want to be seen as patriotic? Or throw a tantrum they think they have every right to fly too?

What the airport looks like free of problems...
As a result there are horrendous delays especially in flights to and from Hong Kong to Beijing and Shanghai. Cathay Pacific is looking to cut down on its number of flights to avoid inconveniencing its passengers and staff, and even admitted having to load on more fuel in case the planes had to keep circling in the air.

That's why as a rule of thumb, many who travel to and from China on business always take the first flight out to ensure being relatively on time; going any time after that is no guarantee the plane will follow the flight schedule...

The demand for flights in China is growing exponentially every year and yet the flight schedule is strangled because it must follow the PLA's whims.

To make things even worse, Beijing's two airports will be closed on September 3 from 9.30am to 12.30pm for the military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

It's as if the entire country must shut down to observe this event. While it makes nationalistic sense, it doesn't economically, particularly when China's economy is slowing.

'One would think the government would coordinate better with commercial airlines to keep the tourism industry running relatively smoothly, but until the PLA relinquishes more control over the Middle Kingdom's airspace, we're going to continue seeing frustrated passengers taking their anger out on airline staff, when it should really be at the PLA...



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