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Xinjiang airports up security to enhance expansion

(Xinhua)

09:57, July 06, 2012

The airport operator and airlines in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Thursday announced security measures have been strengthened after a foiled flight hijacking last week caused nationwide concerns.

The incident, however, will not affect Xinjiang's role as a regional air traffic hub, local officials said.

All 16 airports in Xinjiang have raised security check levels, said a spokesman of Xinjiang Airport Group, the regional airport operator. Passengers will need to have all their carry-on baggage inspected and most of their luggage opened for inspection.

The disabled should present hospital-issued disability certificates if they want to bring crutches or other mobility aids board on the plane.

Passengers at Kashgar Airport, in southern Xinjiang near Hotan, must check their crutches and wheelchairs as baggage. The airport will provide them with mobility aids to help them get on board, said an airport official who asked not to be named.

The boost in security came after six passengers tried to hijack a Tianjin Airline plane minutes after it took off from Hotan Airport on June 29.

According to police and witnesses, the hijackers dismantled a crutch to use as weapons. They tried to storm the cockpit but were subdued by flight security guards and passengers.

Major airlines operating Xinjiang routes including China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airline said the incident did not affect their businesses.

China is aiming to build Xinjiang into a regional air hub, taking advantage of a strategic location in the heartland of Euroasia and bordering eight countries.

According to the regional government's five-year plan, Xinjiang will invest 30 billion yuan ($4.72 billion) in civil aviation infrastructure development from 2011 to 2015. The number of airports there will grow to 22 by the end of 2015.

There are 29 airlines operating regular flights to and from Xinjiang. Urumqi is already air-linked to 52 domestic and about 30 international destinations.

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