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Air China launches direct flight to Lhasa

(Global Times)

08:58, December 16, 2011

Air China, the largest airline on the mainland by passenger volume, on Thursday launched a direct daily flight linking Beijing and Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, in a move which signals the growing importance of this largely untapped market for carriers.

The non-stop flight will depart Beijing in the morning for Lhasa and will take around four hours and 20 minutes, saving two hours of travel time compared to the previous flights making a stop in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Air China said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is considered the world's most difficult zone for civil flights, analysts said on Thursday.

"Air pressure on the plateau differs from that on the plains, a fact that demands more skillful crew members and well-adapted and converted aircraft to ply the route," Ma Zheng, an analyst at aviation industry website, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Besides, ground service at the airports is also an issue that needs to be addressed," said Ma.

Despite the difficulties, some airlines are still considering to fly to the region.

Xiamen Airlines completed the trial operation of its first-ever flight from Xiamen to Lhasa Tuesday. The Fujian-based airline is now waiting for an approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to launch the service.

Meanwhile, Tibet Airlines, a Lhasa-based carrier, is also making efforts to link Lhasa with more destination.

Due to difficult flying conditions, CAAC uses stringent evaluation criteria for approval of routes linking the region. Currently, seven Chinese airlines have around 20 flights linking Lhasa to different hubs on the mainland.

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