Nation's airlines ready for rush

Updated: 2014-01-16 00:58

By Zhao Lei in Beijing and Wang Ying in Shanghai (China Daily)

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As the Spring Festival travel peak begins, Chinese airlines said they are ready to handle the seasonal surge of passengers.

Zhu Mei, spokeswoman for State-owned Air China — the nation’s flag carrier — said the airliner will schedule more than 3,000 extra flights, of which 2,900 will be domestic, during the 40-day rush period, which is expected to see 42 million air trips.

Chinese tradition holds that people should return home and spend Spring Festival, the most important Chinese holiday, with their families. This creates an annual travel rush that is the world’s largest recurrent human migration. This year’s Spring Festival falls on Jan 31.

The company expects to move as many as 170,000 people each day during the travel peak’s busiest days.

Zhu said passengers who book tickets through the company’s website, smartphone applications or e-commerce platforms such as Taobao will receive bigger discounts than they could get from ticket agencies — a policy that encourages passengers to book their flights earlier.

“The sooner our passengers book their tickets, the easier it will be for us to arrange our flight schedules and optimize the efficiency of our operation, thus reducing the delay rate,” she said.

“In order to strengthen our on-time performance, we will improve our weather forecasts and monitor of flight operations.”

Wen Zhidong, an Air China senior manager responsible for flight schedules, said that most passengers who take domestic flights before Spring Festival will be from prosperous coastal regions such as the Yangtze River and Pearl River deltas.

Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines plans to add 4,765 flights during the travel rush in a bid to meet demand.

Zou Ling, the airline’s senior manager in charge of marketing and sales, said that to date, “more than 2,000 domestic flights have been added nationwide, and as many as 3,357 flights from both home and abroad have already been put in place for the rush”.

For passengers who fail to buy a direct train or air ticket home, the company will provide connection services such as “air plus train” or “air plus long-distance bus” to facilitate their journeys.

“The company will book and pay for the high-speed train ticket or bus fare if passengers flying with China Eastern go to cities near Shanghai or Hubei province’s Wuhan,” said Fang Haodong, deputy director of the company’s marketing department.

“About 60,000 people benefited from this policy in 2013, and we can provide up to 1,400 passengers free train tickets every day during this year’s travel rush.”

China Southern Airlines, based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, will add 376 extra flights to 27 routes during this year’s travel peak, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

These added flights will mainly serve links between populous cities on the mainland and major Asian tourist destinations, it said, adding that 84 flights will be added between Guangzhou and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Xia Xinghua, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said at a news conference on Tuesday that Chinese airlines will provide at least 1.1 million seats every day to meet the travel peak.

The administration estimated that domestic flights will increase to more than 62,000 every week from the current 50,000, while international flights will increase 20 percent to more than 9,600 weekly.

Xia said the most popular destinations will be tourist cities like Sanya, Hainan province, and cities with large numbers of migrant workers, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Neighboring countries with many tourist attractions, like Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia, will also be popular during the spring rush, Xia added.

He urged airlines to get ready for potential extreme weather conditions, especially heavy fog and snow, and to release any information regarding changed schedules as quickly as possible.

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