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Xinjiang set to boost air trip business

By ZHU WENQIAN in Beijing and MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-23 09:25

A jet arrives at Tashkurgan Khunjerab Airport in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The airport, which opened in December, is China's westernmost and Xinjiang's first high-plateau airport. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is speeding up the development of its air travel market by building more civil airports and raising connectivity, fueled by increased travel demand to and from the region.

By the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), the number of civil airports in operation in Xinjiang is expected to increase to 37 from 25 currently. Some newly built civil transportation airports have carried out preliminary work before being put into commercial operation, the local government said during a news conference earlier this week.

"Now, all cities in Xinjiang are located within 60 minutes' drive from airports. By 2025, 96.2 percent of counties will be located within 100 kilometers from airports, an increase from 95.2 percent currently," said Zhang Tingyao, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China Xinjiang Regional Administration.

During the just concluded Spring Festival holiday that lasted from Feb 10 to 17, the total number of air passengers handled in China, including via domestic and international flights, reached 17.99 million, a new high, according to the CAAC.

The 40-day Spring Festival travel rush that began on Jan 26 and which concludes on March 5, has seen large passenger flows, including family visits, students, migrant workers and tourists.

Over the festival period, Tianjin Airlines added more flight capacities to connect other cities with Xinjiang. For instance, the carrier added more flight frequencies connecting Xi'an, Shaanxi province and Korla, Xinjiang.

Going forward, taking Xi'an Xianyang International Airport as a main operations base in Northwest China, Tianjin Airlines plans to launch more flights or add frequencies that connect Xi'an with cities in Xinjiang and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the carrier said.

"China's central and western areas boast the largest number of high-altitude airports. Domestic carriers should connect more smaller cities with their hub airports to build a competitive route network," said Li Guijin, a professor at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China in Beijing.

"The sustainable growth of regional aviation is at the core of the Chinese airline industry's competitiveness. The country should also build a group of specialized and scaled regional carriers," Li said.

By the end of 2023, the 25 airports in Xinjiang handled passenger trips of 40.95 million, cargo and mail throughput of 204,700 metric tons, and 527,300 takeoffs and landings, with year-on-year increases reaching 143.9 percent, 67.1 percent and 72.2 percent, respectively, the local government said.

Since 2023, a total of 22 international and regional passenger routes have operated in Xinjiang, covering 16 cities in 13 countries and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In addition, Xinjiang has been building more general aviation airports, the local government said. Such airports are designed for civil aviation operations such as pilot training, agriculture, civil search and rescue, aerial survey and pollution control.


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