by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 22, 2010
The first airline to be based in Tibet will launch its first domestic flights from the remote Himalayan region in the middle of next year, state media reported on Tuesday.
Tibet Airlines will operate flights within Tibet and link its capital Lhasa with other major cities across the China, the China Daily said.
The carrier is considering buying Boeing 737-700 and Airbus 319 aircraft to service the high-altitude routes, the paper said. It did not say how many flights the airline would run.
China's civil aviation authorities approved the airline in March as it tries to boost tourism in Tibet by speeding up transportation between cities in the region.
The China Business News said the airline plans to buy three planes.
Tibet Airlines has a registered capital of 280 million yuan (41 million dollars) and is majority owned by the state-owned Tibet Investment Co, with remaining stakes held by two private companies.
Visitor numbers to the Buddhist region have been hit in recent years after China banned foreign tourists from visiting after deadly anti-Chinese riots erupted in Lhasa and across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008.
Beijing again barred foreigners in March last year during the tense 50th anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against China that sent the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, into exile.
But the local government has been slashing the cost of holiday packages and promoting new tourism spots to draw visitors back to the impoverished area.
In the first quarter of this year, a total of 177,000 tourists visited the picturesque region, up 27.8 percent from the same period a year ago, official data showed.
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