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by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Feb 24, 2011
China plans to invest more than 1.5 trillion yuan ($228.2 billion) in the aviation industry over the next five years to meet surging demand as its economy booms, the sector's top regulator said Thursday.
By 2015, the country is expected to have more than 220 commercial airports and its fleet size will expand to more than 4,500 planes, Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), told reporters.
"The ability of the civil aviation sector to serve the national economy and the public will be further strengthened" by that time, Li told a news conference.
The country currently has 175 commercial airports in operation and keeps more than 2,600 aircraft in its fleet, according to Li.
China has 43 airlines, including eight privately owned carriers. The major airlines are Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines.
The government encourages private investment in the civil aviation sector and three new private airlines will soon submit business applications to the regulator, Li added.
Demand for air traffic is booming as the world's second-largest economy roars ahead on near double-digit growth and increasingly affluent Chinese people are travelling more frequently.
Li had previously said the country's civil aviation fleet was expected to have up to 5,000 aircraft by 2015, according to earlier Chinese media reports.
He predicted 450-500 million air passenger trips would be made annually by 2015, and the CAAC aims to expand that target to 1.5 billion by 2030, according to the reports.
A total of 267 million air passenger trips were recorded in China in 2010, up 15.8 percent from the previous year, official figures showed.
Li admitted the country's expanding high-speed rail network could lure passengers away from airlines, particularly on short-haul trips under 500 kilometres (310 miles), but said the competition would spur airlines.
"The impact of high-speed trains will help the civil aviation sector to improve its management and control ... and provide faster and more convenient service to the passengers," he said.
Li said the government aims to boost the competitiveness of Chinese airlines in the global aviation market.
Chinese carriers have less than 30 percent of the international cargo market and account for 46 percent of passenger flights in and out of China, he said.
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