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China's Civil Aviation Takes off
Growth within China's civil aviation sector has soared since September 11, while the rest of the global industry has not yet recovered from the impact of the year-old terror strikes.

The country's air industry generated profits of 480 million yuan (US$57.8 million) in the first eight months of the year, with passenger traffic rising by 11 percent year-on-year, the civil aviation regulator revealed yesterday.

This is in sharp contrast with Europe and North America, where air traffic nose-dived by almost 12 percent and 9 percent respectively between January and July, according to the International Air Traffic Association (IATA).

US-based Northwest Airlines, which flies the US-China air route, experienced a decline in demand in virtually all of its markets in the past 12 months, its China General Manager Laurie Lofgren told China Daily.

China's robust air traffic growth shows its aviation industry has flown out of chronic financial trouble and people's confidence in air travel has not been dampened by the terror strikes, a senior official from the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) said.

The official attributed the achievements in part to the steady national economic growth and enhanced security measures.

After September 11, China exerted unprecedented efforts to fight terrorism and acts of unlawful interference in air travel, the official said.

The first eight months of the year alone saw the government invest 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) to aid the airlines in updating aviation security systems -- including reinforcing cockpit doors -- and in improving safety examination equipment at airports.

In the first half of the year, civil aviation security authorities arrested more than 380 suspected criminals and detected more than 45,000 dangerous articles.

IATA Director-General Giovanni Bisignani endorsed the development of the Chinese market.

"China has shown strong growth and some Asian markets have benefited from increased tourist traffic as a result of perceptions of security," he said in his assessment of air travel a year after September 11.

Despite losses this year on international scheduled operations being forecast at US$4 billion-6 billion, Bisignani said the aviation industry is resilient.

"By the end of 2003, we expect to recover most of our lost ground and to be back at pre-September 11 volumes," he said.

Lofgren said Northwest Airlines has taken steps to strengthen its share of the Chinese market by opening up daily single-connection services from Beijing and Shanghai, through its Tokyo hub, to more of the United States.

(China Daily September 12, 2002)

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