CAAC suspends new airline approvals until 2010
The China General Administration of Civil Aviation has placed a halt on approvals of new airline applications until 2010 as part of efforts to improve air safety, the China News Service reported. The administration said it would also raise the thresholds for new airlines when the embargo is lifted after 2010. However, the administration could still approve new cargo airlines as long as flights are mainly at night and manned by mostly foreign pilots. It is also likely to exempt from the ban carriers that register or operate in western and northeastern areas and those that use China-made aircraft. China's air transport is growing at an average annual rate of more than 16%, but 18 airports, including Beijing, Shanghai Hongqiao, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Dalian and Urumqi, are already operating at their maximum capacity. The industry also suffers from a range of problems including a shortage of professional technicians, limited air space, and poor infrastructure. The government has pledged US$18.52 billion (RMB140 billion) from 2006 to 2010 to build new airports and upgrade old ones. Around 80% of the funds are earmarked for big airports. The country will have 190 airports by 2010, up from 142 at the end of 2005.