Airlines biggest reason for flight delays in China


May 06--BEIJING -- Problems that originate with airline companies are the main reason for delayed flights in China, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the authority that oversees the nation's skies, said in its latest report.

The appraisal of the air transportation industry's development in 2010 noted that 41.1 percent of all the delays that affected major carriers last year were caused by the airlines themselves, eclipsing other factors such as air traffic control problems (27.6 percent) and bad weather (19.5 percent).

Medium and small carriers had even more problems and were responsible for 47.9 percent of their delays.

It was the first time that the administration had publicized such issues and laid the blame for a large chunk of flight delays at the feet of the carriers and was seen by analysts as showing a firmer resolve to fix the problems.

The report made many passengers angry and led some to claim that the airlines had not been honest with them.

Kang Miao, a 28-year-old Beijing resident who frequently takes the plane for business trips, said he was not aware of an airline ever admitting it was at fault when a plane failed to take off on time.

"The most common reasons I have received from the airlines have been air traffic control issues or that the plane was late in arriving at the airport," he said. "Extreme weather has also been blamed sometimes."

Kang said he felt as if the airlines had been trying to fool him to avoid paying compensation.

He said he boarded a flight in Beijing bound for Shenzhen in June but had to wait for almost an hour for takeoff.

"The airline staff said the weather in Shenzhen was to blame," he said. "But some passengers called people in Shenzhen who said the weather was fine."

Passengers also complained about the way airlines decide whether a flight is delayed or on time.

Zhao Yifei, a professor at the Civil Aviation University of China, told China Daily that, if passengers get on board at the right time, the airlines will claim that the flight was on time, even if it actually takes off late.

The mistrust between passengers and the airlines has caused some high-profile incidents during the past year that has seen airport staff injured and facilities damaged by angry passengers.

On Wednesday evening, four passengers went bare-chested in Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport to protest the delay of their flight and demand compensation.

The civil aviation authority has taken several steps to address the problems, including asking airlines to reserve 2 percent of their total capacity to deal with serious flight delays.

The authority also ruled earlier that passengers should be in line for compensation from airlines if the airlines are responsible for delays of more than four hours.

But the situation is worsening, despite its efforts.

According to the report, China's airlines' on-schedule rate last year was 75.8 percent, a fall of 6.2 percentage points compared with 2009. The rate was the worst for five years.

"The drop should be attributed to the fast increase in China's air traffic volume as well as limited national airspace resources," said Geng Shuxiang, dean of the business management department at the Civil Aviation Management Institution of China.

She said the country should ensure there is more airspace available for civil aviation and improve the management of air traffic to meet the increasing demands.