WSJ Coverage of China’s Air Traffic Jam

Thursday, February 15, 2007 21:57
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Earlier this week I gave the WSJ coverage of China’s culture a less than favorable review, but the coverage of China’s air traffic delays in China’s Congested Skies is an article that I expect from the folks at Dow Jones.

As covered on Shangahiist’s post Did greed and politics cause the airport shutdown? and China Law Blog’s China Air Travel: Everybody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen, air travel in China is becoming an issue for people who are traveling within China, as well as going in and out.

The problem is simple: The military owns the skies and has only opened up a fraction of the air space that civilian operators need.

The solution unfortunately is not so simple as it would entail the military giving up some control.

A few of the most interesting points of the article were:

  • Planes flying from New York to Chicago can travel at any of about 13 altitudes. China limits civilian aircraft to flying at seven altitudes, which means fewer jets can enter the sky.
  • Pilots grouse that even blue skies are no guarantee of smooth flying, because China’s air force often picks the clearest days to practice.
  • Hong Kong’s government reports a tripling in departure delays from its airport over the past three years, to 2,996 last year from 973 in 2004.
  • China plans to change its rules and introduce 1,000-foot vertical spacing of its own on August 30

And it offered a great pictoral image as well

While I do travel to the second tier cities, I am fortunate in that most of my travel recently whether to suppliers or the parks has been via train.

Fortunately, my worst delay this year (a meer 3 hours), was in the new Chengdu airport. It is a beautiful airport with 6 gates and a coffee shop…. that has wireless.

Another recent case was while going to HK. We had actually pulled away form the gate, and were on the tarmac for 45 minutes waiting before the first announcement. following that announcement a few gentlemen got up and began harassing the staff (cause everyone knows that it is the flight attendant’s fault). luckily she had boxes of food to throw at them.

My suggestion for anyone traveling within China is to pack extra batteries, find a lounge, and relax. With business and leisure travel both on the increase, the problem is only sure to get worse in the short term in spite of the 1000 foot rule. Now when I schedule flights, I schedule the first flight out of the day. I will pay extra if I know that the line on the tarmac is somewhat shortened.

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