Air companies in China have recently increased flights to Lhasa, capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, sharing a cake from the booming tourism stimulated by the Qinghai-Tibet railway that opened on Saturday.
Following a new air route between Xi'an and Lhasa just launched by the Hainan Airlines in May, China Eastern Airlines also opened the Shanghai-Xi'an-Lhasa air route this week. The latter promised to input three Airbus A319 aircrafts for the new route by the end of this year.
Air China, which has monopolized air travel in and out of Tibet for nearly 40 years, will put three Airbus A330s into use on the route between Chengdu and Lhasa and increase the flights from 8 to 10 times a day.
Tourism bureau of Tibet predicts that with the operation of Qinghai-Tibet railway on Saturday will boost tourist entries to Tibet by 400,000 a year.
Chen Xin, vice manager of Air China's planning department, said the Qinghai-Tibet railway will have little influence on passenger number of the air routes linking to Tibet, and on the contrary, the increasing tourists entries into Tibet will become new client sources for air companies.
Chen analysed that a trip to Lhasa, the railway is cheaper compared with the airlines, but it will take a longer time. And Chen believed more people will like entering Tibet by train and leaving by airlines.
Currently, it will cost 2,430 yuan (303.75 dollars) for a one-way air ticket from Beijing to Lhasa.
While for a railway journey of 4,064 kilometers from Beijing to Lhasa, the basic coach ticket, called a hard seat only sells for 389 yuan (48.6 U.S. dollars), the price for hard sleeper or bunk cost 813 yuan (101.6 dollars), and the price for a shared compartment or soft sleeper is 1,262 yuan (157.75 dollars).
Though the air companies increased flights to explore the market in Tibet, Chinese aviation authority said there would be no change on the air ticket price.
Gao Hongfeng, vice director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said one reason for the air ticket price to Lhasa sticking at a high level is that renovation to the airplanes, making them adapted to high altitude conditions, increased the flight cost.
Another reason is that aircraft flying towards Tibet must carry more fuel for the return journey, thus the passengers and goods will be reduced to balance the weight, which also increased flight cost.
In addition, special climate conditions in Tibet also increased chances for airplanes to stop flights in the midway, another reason for the increasing cost. Last year, 108 flights had to stop flight for the climate reasons.