Chinese airlines need to buy a watch
If it feels like there’s a delay almost every time you fly in China, it might not be in your head.
Chinese airline punctuality last year dropped to below 81 percent for the first time since 2005, say statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).
According to similar data released by China Eastern, domestic Chinese airline flights in 2010 were late almost 30 percent of the time. To some who frequently fly in China, even this might seem like an understatement.
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Li Xiaojin, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China, said to state media that in China, “A flight is considered punctual as long as the plane's door is closed at the departure time. That means that even if passengers are kept waiting in a plane for 30 minutes or more before taking off, the flight is considered punctual.”
With this standard, the on-time rate has hovered between 81 percent and 83 percent between 2005 and 2009.
A flight is considered punctual as long as the plane's door is closed at the departure time. That means that even if passengers are kept waiting in a plane for 30 minutes or more before taking off, the flight is considered punctual— Li Xiaojin, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China
If you can’t miss your meeting, based on airline statistics released from 2010, your best bet is to fly China Eastern with 79.04 percent of its flights taking off on time -- three percentage points higher than the national average last year.
If China Eastern is all booked out, try Xiamen Airlines (78.62 percent of its flights arrive on time) or Shandong Airlines (76.84 percent). Or, just avoid domestic carriers altogether.
Liu Guangcai, professor at the Civil Aviation University of China, said the decrease in overall punctuality was due to the additional strain on the Chinese air traffic system, which saw more passengers than previous years in 2010.
"China's aviation market recovered in 2010 after the financial crisis hit the industry in 2008 and 2009. Official figures showed that the number of passengers last year climbed some 22 percent from 2009," Liu said to China Daily.
Liu Guangcai also points our that currently less than 30 percent of Chinese airspace is open to civil aviation, with most going to military use. That limits any adjustments air traffic controllers can make if there is a problem with an aircraft’s route, possibly cause by bad weather, again making delays more likely.
Minister of Transport Li Shenglin said in December that the country will target an 80 percent punctuality rate in the next five years.
As China debates how to improve it’s current air traffic system, Spring Airlines, China’s only budget carrier, has started preparations for going public on the Shanghai exchange.
The airline registered a net profit of RMB 470 million in 2010, up 240 percent from 2009.
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President and founder of the company, Wang Zhenghua, said to state media that he expects the company to continue this growth momentum this year after the Shanghai 2010 Expo.
Some venture to guess that this listing has to do with Spring Airlines' plan to increase its fleet to 100 aircraft by 2015.
Spring Airlines self-reported on-time record for September 2010 was 63.9 percent, 65.7 percent in October 2010 and 65.3 percent in November 2010.