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Shanghai take-offs 'free of air traffic restrictions'

By Yang Jian (Shanghai Daily)

13:20, July 30, 2013

Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao international airports are among eight in the country that will be free from air traffic restrictions on take-offs, a senior civil aviation official has said.

Air traffic restrictions - often a result of giving way to military operations or if destination airports are simply too busy - are major causes of flight delays in China.

Take-offs from Shanghai, plus airports in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Kunming and Xi'an, will be free from restrictions, said Cui Jianqiang, deputy director of the Air Traffic Management Bureau under the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), on his personal microblog over the weekend.

CAAC's east China bureau has yet to receive official confirmation, a senior official there told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

"Airports cannot be totally free of restrictions but can give priorities to take-off," the official said.

However, aircraft coming in to land will still face delays, "stacking up" and circling the airport until they are given a landing slot.

"For passengers, the waiting was just moved from the ground to the sky," said the bureau official.

The punctuality rate of domestic flights dropped to 71.7 percent between January and May - a decline of 3.4 percent year on year.

CAAC director Li Jiaxiang said 42 percent of delays were due to carrier operations, followed by air traffic control procedures at 26 percent, with bad weather responsible for 21 percent.

Military forces are granted special authorization to use the country's air space. About 25 percent of airspace is generally used for military purposes.

The eight airports covered by the freedom from air traffic restrictions initiatives are the busiest in China.

They will coordinate for flights to land at different airports during air traffic restrictions or bad weather, Cui said.

The rapid growth of airport capacity nationwide has led to increased demand for air space, leading to more delays.

The airports in Beijing and Shanghai have the most flight delays in the world, according to an industry survey.

Beijing Capital International Airport came bottom among 35 international airports surveyed, with a punctuality rate of 18.3 percent, US-based aviation data provider FlightStats said.

Pudong International Airport in Shanghai was only one place above, with a flight punctuality rate of less than 30 percent.

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