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Western Skies Open to Overseas Airlines

Overseas airlines are expected to take a share of the fledging Chinese aviation market, as the nation opens the skies of China's western regions.

China has worked out an opening-up policy for the western region's air rights, encouraging more overseas airlines to fly to and from western cities, said a senior civil aviation official Yang Guoqing.

"There will be no more limits imposed on overseas carriers' applications for operating international flights in western areas," said Yang, vice-director of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), the industry regulator.

Yang was speaking at a conference on co-ordinating the economic development for the Chinese western provinces and autonomous regions in Guiyang of Southwest China's Guizhou Province yesterday.

"The administration is expected to unveil a proposal for the further development of international air transport, to encourage airlines to start up international flights," Yang said.

Thanks to the policy and funding support for the western development campaign, the cities of Southwest China have witnessed rapid growth in air transport as well as infrastructure construction.

Official statistics show passenger transport in six southwestern Chinese provinces including Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou as well as the Tibet Autonomous Region increased around 35 per cent in 2004 over the previous year.

Thirty-two airports are distributed throughout the six provinces and autonomous regions, making up 25 of the total nationwide.

"By the end of 2010, the number of airports in the areas is expected to reach 48 as indicated by the administration's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) for aviation development," Yang said.

While domestic airlines are working to build regional flight networks in western regions, international air carriers are showing great interest in the new open-sky policies.

"KLM welcomes the opening-up policy on aviation rights," Raymond Zhang, regional manager of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, told China Daily. "We take it as a chance for us to seriously consider exploring the market in western China."

(China Daily August 16, 2005)

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