Tickets for 9 yuan offered on air route

Updated: 2013-10-31 07:18

By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang (China Daily)

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A traveler can't get very far on just 9 yuan ($1.48) in many cities, but from Sunday that has been the going price for a plane ticket between two major cities in Hebei province that are 500 km apart.

Budget carrier Spring Airlines made the first regional flight between Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei, and Tangshan, the economic powerhouse in the north in the province, on Sunday.

An Airbus 320, which seats about 180 passengers, is scheduled to make a round trip on the route every day.

"The flight shortened my travel time to 40 minutes and cost much less than a train ticket," said Li Wenhua, a businessman commuting between the two cities.

"I usually drive cars on business trips, which takes at least five hours, let alone the high costs for gasoline and expressway tolls," he said, adding that the long trip makes him exhausted.

By bullet train, the trip takes more than three hours and costs more than 128 yuan.

Spring Airlines is selling discount tickets for the new air route for only 9 yuan. With fuel surcharges added, a ticket costs only 119 yuan.

Tickets for the first flight from Tangshan to Shijiazhuang sold out two days in advance, and more than half of the passengers aboard that flight bought their tickets at the low price, he said.

"I have relatives in Tangshan, but I only visit them two or three times a year. This flight will make our visits much easier," said Deng Wenxiu, 55, who lives in Shijiazhuang.

Hu Tingbao, manager in charge of Spring Airlines' new route, said the special low-price ticket is not temporary.

"The special price will be available for the long term," he said.

He also denied that the low price would have a negative impact on the airline's sales, adding that the price is kept down thanks to support from Tangshan Airport and the local government.

Ren Mingqi, general manager of Tangshan Sannyehe Airport Management Co, said the new market strategy aims to help the airport survive.

Opened in 2010, the regional airport has little scope for development, since it is close to Beijing and Tianjin.

"The low price can help the airport attract passengers from the city and its neighbors such as Chengde, Zhangjiakou and Qinhuangdao," Ren said.

In the past three years, the Tangshan city government has allocated more than 100 million yuan to fueling the airport's development, he said.

"Once we have fostered a market, both the airport and airlines will benefit," Ren said.