The world's second highest airport, Kangding, opened on Wednesday in a predominantly Tibetan region of southwest China's Sichuan Province.
At an altitude of 4,280 meters, it is second only to Qamdo in Tibet Autonomous Region which sits 4,334 meters above sea level.
The airport allowed for a 35-minute trip from Kangding, capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze, to Chengdu, the provincial capital, compared with a six-hour road journey, said Kangding Airport Co., Ltd. general manager Fan Yongzheng.
A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-700 from Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province, traveling via Chengdu, was the first flight to land at the airport on Wednesday morning.
Other scheduled flights were yet to be determined, Fan said.
Sitting between the Dadu and Yalong rivers, both tributaries of the Yangtze, Kangding is a popular tourist destination.
"We are building highways connecting the airport to the main tourist attractions in Garze," said Hu Bin, vice head of the Garze prefecture.
"On completion, tourists will be able to arrive at the scenic spots within two hours."
Construction of the airport, 40 kilometers from Kangding town, started in September 2006. The 4,000-meter runway is designed to meet the demands of A319 and Boeing 737-300 aircraft. It is expected to handle 330,000 passengers and 1,980 tons of cargo and mail annually.
(Xinhua News Agency October 22, 2008)