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Airlines to blame for delays, regulator says

By Yang Jian (Shanghai Daily)

09:24, March 06, 2012

OVERLY tight flight schedules arranged by Chinese airlines are to be blamed for many delays of domestic flights, long the bane of passengers, the top official of the country's civil aviation regulator said yesterday.

The airlines are mainly responsible for 40 percent of flight delays - not the air-traffic control or weather that have been used as common excuses by the airlines, said Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

"The actual cause of the delays is the airlines arranging flights so tightly that it makes the maintenance and cleaning work unable to be finished before taking off," Li said.

The regulator will take measures this year to increase the punctuality rate by two percentage points to 78.5 percent for domestic flights, he said. Last year, the rate for domestic airlines improved by 1.9 percentage points. In 2009, the on-schedule rate was 81.9 percent, according to the administration.

Li said that if carriers have consistent delays over certain routes, the regulator will stop them from flying those routes. The administration defines a flight delay as the plane failing to take off within 30 minutes of the hatch closing.

The regulator will also begin requiring staff from air-traffic control, the airlines and airports to be on duty together in control towers of all airports across the country to properly arrange the flights, according to Li.

Shanghai ranks second on a list of Chinese cities with the most frequent flight delays, better only than Guangzhou in southern China's Guangdong Province, according to a survey released recently by an online flight ticket-trading platform.

Li cited China's relative dearth of airports as another reason for frequent delays. The country has a total of 180 airports, compared with 17,000 in the United States and 700 in Brazil, according to Li. The central government will invest about 20 billion yuan per year to build 72 new airports and expand 101 others by 2015 to meet the increasing demand, Li said.

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