Domestic airlines have launched a new round of fuel-saving measures to counter the rising price of fuel.
Peng Jun, an executive with China Southern Airline Co Ltd's publicity department, said that China Southern has been practicing fuel-saving strategies for the past few years.
She said the company has reiterated the importance of saving fuel as the price soars to a new high. The price of jet fuel has recently risen to 5,040 yuan (US$621) per ton from 4,740 yuan (US$584).
"A fuel surcharge does not work well as the market competition has always been fierce," she said. "A more feasible way is to use fuel more scientifically and economically."
She said that China Southern uses the million-dollar SOC (System Operations Control) system for fuel-filling, minimizing unnecessary fuel consumption.
The SOC system can calculate precisely how much fuel is enough for a flight on the basis of actual load, voyage, weather, backup landing and the performance of an aircraft.
And the company has applied to authorities for more direct flight routes, or higher flight routes.
According to Zhou Liyou, a China Southern pilot, a direct flight route will help an aircraft to save more fuel than a curved one, while flights higher in the sky will dramatically reduce fuel consumption.
The pilot gave the example of a direct flight route from Shenzhen, a city in south China's Guangdong Province, to Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province this would save over 3 million yuan (US$369,914) on fuel in a year.
Yang Defeng, another China Southern publicity executive, said that the airline has more than 200 aircraft in operation each day and a fuel price rise of 100 yuan (US$12) per ton will translate to a reduction in net profit of 250 million yuan (US$31 million) a year.
China Southern will have to spend an extra 750 million yuan (US$93 million) on fuel this year if its fuel-saving programme is not as effective as expected, Yang said.
Other airlines including China Eastern and China Airlines told China Daily they have also taken steps to save fuel.
In addition to more scientific methods of fuel-filling, the airlines are considering the use of lighter handcarts on board and stricter controls on the weight of passengers' luggage.
Li Lei, an analyst with Guangzhou-based Huaxia Securities Co Ltd, said that fuel costs make up about 25 percent to 28 percent of the general operational costs of an airline in China.
He said the recent fuel price rise will amount to a cost increase of over 1.2 billion yuan (US$148 million) for domestic airlines, which consume over 4 million tons of jet fuel annually.
(China Daily April 7, 2006)