Chinese airlines have been forced to cut flight fares to Tibet by up to 55 percent following the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
Since Wednesday, nine flights operated by Air China, Sichuan Airline and China Southern Airline have been offering hefty discounts.
Flight fare from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality was reduced by 55 percent from its original 1,630 yuan (US$203.75) and the fare from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, was down 45 percent from 1,500 yuan (US$187.50).
"This is the first time that airlines flying to Tibet have offered any discounts at all," said a senior official with the Sichuan Airline on condition of anonymity.
China's first air route to Tibet was started from Chengdu in 1965. Each year over one million passengers fly the route.
There are three airports in Tibet and fourteen air routes to the "Roof of The World".
Before the Qinghai-Tibet Railway went into operation on July 1 this year, passengers who wanted a flight ticket to Tibet had to make the purchase two weeks before the departure date, said Xiao Lin, a passenger in Sichuan.
But he noted that in July when he flew back from Tibet in an aircraft that could accommodate over 200 passengers, many seats were not occupied.
A train ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa is about 331 yuan (US$41.4) and a sleeper ticket is about 712 yuan (US$89). The discounted price of a plane ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa could be as low as 975 yuan.
The official with the Sichuan airline also attributes the discounts to cut-throat competition between airlines. "The quiet period of tourism for Tibet is drawing near and discounts are a natural choice for airlines," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2006)