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Airlines to slug it out on home turf
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The merger between China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines has brought to the fore the savage dogfight with Air China as they are trampling on each other's supposed home turfs.

As early as February, Air China, the national carrier, quietly promoted its Shanghai office to a full-fledged branch. Industry observers said the carrier may be planning to move at least a part of its international flights to Shanghai from Beijing.

A news report yesterday said Air China had started the process of eventually shifting 80 percent of its international flights to the Shanghai hub to take advantage of the expected increase in overseas visitors to the World Expo next May.

Though busy with the merger, China Eastern has not been keeping quiet. Earlier this month, the Shanghai-based carrier announced that it had upgraded its office in the capital to a branch that would operate its own aircraft fleet and maintain its own pilot team.

According to the carrier's plan, as many as four Airbus A330s would be under the control of the Beijing Branch, and the fleet size would expand to nine by the end of this year.

Liu Shaoyong, chairman of China Eastern, said the carrier would raise its Beijing market share from the current 13 percent to 20 percent within five years.

Rao Xinyu, board secretary with Air China, told reporters the carrier would maintain its Shanghai strategy despite the ongoing merger between China Eastern and Shanghai Airlines. Currently, Air China commands 12 percent of the Shanghai market share.

As China's two most important cities and airline hubs, Beijing and Shanghai attract much rivalry from domestic carriers, said Ji Lijun, an analyst with Shanghai Securities.

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