Xinjiang aims to be air traffic hub on Silk Road Economil Belt

Updated: 2014-12-31 11:18

By CUI JIA(China Daily)

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Xinjiang aims to be air traffic hub on Silk Road Economil Belt

Famous fruits from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are packed and flown to different areas around China. The region's modern civil aviation industry has developed beyond all recognition in the 60 years since it started. [Provided to China Daily]

The number of airports in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will rise to 25 from the current 16 by 2020, as China attempts to transform the area into a major transportation hub on the Silk Road Economic Belt.

"We believe the new international airport in the regional capital of Urumqi will be operational by 2020, and will become one of the most influential aviation hubs in Central Asia," Duan Zixin, general manager of the Xinjiang Airport Group, said.

The new airport is expected have two runways long enough to accommodate the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China recently announced that it will speed up a preliminary study of the new airport, and also backed Urumqi's application to allow 72-hour visa-free entry for international transit passengers.

CAAC also encouraged airlines to operate more routes to connect cities in Xinjiang, China's largest and most westerly region, with the east of the country and destinations overseas. Xinjiang currently has 46 domestic and foreign airlines operating 184 routes to 25 cities or regions in 15 countries.

"Our focus is to launch new routes connecting Xinjiang with key trade centers in Central Asia, East Asia, and Europe. It will be a Silk Road in the air," Duan said.

In a 2103 speech in Kazakhstan, President Xi Jinping proposed that China and the Central Asian countries build an "economic belt along the Silk Road". The trans-Eurasian project would target more than 3 billion people, representing the single biggest market in the world with unparalleled potential.

The number of air passengers to and from Xinjiang is expected to reach 34 million annually by 2020, an increase of 70 percent from 2013, he added.

Xinjiang now has the largest number of airports and the longest flight routes of any part of China. The longest route is from southern Xinjiang's Kashgar city to Shen-zhen, a coastal city in the southern province of Guangdong, a journey time of about 7.5 hours.

Kashgar is Xinjiang's second-busiest airport, after Urumqi International, and the central government has established a special economic zone in the city that is expected to transform China's most westerly city into an international trading hub.