As China’s civil aviation market takes off in underdeveloped western regions, the country’s ambitious trade strategy – the belt and road initiatives – could take the industry to a new high.
At the 13th Asian airline development conference that closed on Tuesday, Yunnan Airport Group Co. Ltd., which runs 12 airports in the southwestern province, reached agreement with 10 international and domestic airlines for new routes and resources.
Budget Malaysian carrier Air Asia agreed to open six new international routes linking Yunnan with neighboring countries, said Liu Huixin, a member of the Air Asia delegation.
The Yunnan airport group also signed agreements with Canada’s Prince George and Toronto airports.
“The belt and road initiatives have invigorated the aviation market in west China,” said Huang Wenliang of Singapore Changi Airport.
Direct flights from Kunming to Paris, the first destination outside Asia, began in December and flights to Vancouver should begin this year. Flights from megacity Chongqing to Rome will begin in April.
Yunnan, which borders Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, is expected to have 20 airports served by 410 international and domestic air routes by 2020 with an annual passenger turnover of 100 million, according to Ding Shaoxiang, deputy provincial governor.
China’s aviation authority wants airlines to open more routes in west China, and is focused on improving the market for low-cost carriers, opening up the skies and simplifying approval of international routes, said deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China Zhou Laizhen. Zhou sees Yunnan as an air transportation hub linking west China with Southeast and South Asia.
In the past, aviation focused on eastern regions and the domestic market, said Zhou. Now international routes outperform domestic routes, and central and western China have become targets for airlines.
Kunming, capital of Yunnan, and the cities of Chengdu, Chongqing and Xi’an in west China now offer international transit passengers 72-hour visa-free stays.
“This year we will apply for tariff-free aviation oil business at Kunming airport,” said Jiang Wenzhong, vice president of the Yunnan airport group.
“Whatever airlines or other service providers all hope to share the dividends brought by the Belt and Road initiatives through expanding the aviation market in west China,” said Christophe Potocki, general manager of ASEAN and Pacific Sales of ATR, the world’s largest turboprop aircraft maker.
About 1,000 delegates from 113 airlines, 283 airports and 45 tourism administrations across the world attended the three-day conference in Kunming. Enditem