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Air industry given Olympic ultimatum
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Civil aviation authorities have ordered domestic airlines and airports to reduce flight delays and improve their services ahead of the Olympic Games.

Airlines face tough penalties including two-year expansion bans if they fail to meet the new punctuality and passenger satisfaction requirements, an official has said.

Yang Guoqing, vice-minister of the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) made the announcement at a working conference on Friday.

From July to September, domestic airlines will be under close scrutiny to ensure they meet the new standards, Yang said.

Airlines have been ordered to stop overbooking tickets for domestic flights, and also have been asked to have one or two planes on standby at six key airports in case of unforeseen delays.

The airports are Shanghai Pudong and Hongqiao, Qingdao, Tianjin, Qinghuangdao, and Shenyang.

The CAAC will also limit the number of daily scheduled flights at Beijing Capital International Airport to 1,350, and leave 15 percent of flight schedules at the six key airports vacant.

The penalty measure introduced last year that allows civil aviation authorities to cancel flights that are regularly late will remain in force this year, Yang said.

The CAAC has also urged airlines and airports to improve services to ensure passenger satisfaction.

An expected 500,000 foreigners will fly to China during the Olympics. Authorities want to ensure they have a good first impression.

Drills held over the past two summers have raised a number of passenger comfort issues, with some travelers kept waiting for hours in stuffy cabins or terminal buildings, partly due to weather conditions, Yang said.

The administration has also asked airports to draft emergency plans, after a huge amount of public money was spent on boosting security at major airports.

Another vice-minister of the CAAC, Li Jian, said the administration had spent 1.5 billion yuan ($206 million) upgrading air traffic control facilities.

A further 714 million yuan has been spent on improving airport security facilities, while 33 million yuan was spent on six explosive detection facilities.

The National Development and Reform Commission has also approved 255 million yuan for camera monitoring systems to be installed in the cabins of selected passenger aircraft.

(China Daily January 12, 2008)

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