July takeoff date for Chongqing Airlines
1.2b yuan to be invested
Chongqing Airlines may start its maiden flight in July after it is officially set up next month on the 10th anniversary of the city's upgrade to a municipality, a government source said.
The airline, to be established on June 18, is 60 per cent-owned by China Southern Airlines, which will supply the passenger aircraft and technical support.
The government-owned Chongqing Development and Investment Corp will offer cash for the remaining 40 per cent.
Chongqing Airlines is being set up as another carrier, backed by China Hainan Airlines and a unit of Civil Aviation Flight University of China, is expected to enter the Chongqing market within the year, according to the source.
The company, provisionally named Western Airlines, initially chose to be based in Mianyang, a city in Sichuan province, where the university is located, but later opted for Chongqing. Its investors were not available for comment.
The source said total investment in Chongqing Airlines was expected to amount to 1.2 billion yuan in cash and equipment, with half provided at the start and the rest injected into the company after two years of operation.
'The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China approved our application on May 11, and what we do now is just put everything together and be ready to get things going,' the source said.
The source also said the new airline, which was proposed a year ago to handle growing demand in Chongqing, might start selling tickets and commercial operation in late July although no final decision had been made.
'We saw more than 10 million passengers travelling through Chongqing last year and we felt the market was big enough to support multiple air carriers,' the source said.
The airline industry in Sichuan and Chongqing, two major destinations in the southwest, has long been dominated by Air China after its state-instructed takeover of China Southwest Airlines.
Air China now has 12 Boeing passenger aircraft operating on 65 domestic routes and 14 international routes in Chongqing, according to data released in 2005.
Chongqing Airlines would start with three Airbus 320 aircraft and would expand the fleet based on its performance, the source said. 'It's more about co-operation [with Air China] than competition. This market is big and still growing and everyone will have a reasonable market share,' the source said.
Air China's spokesman Wang Yongsheng said that he had not heard about the Chongqing Airlines launch.
'If it's true, I will send my warm greetings to them,' Mr Wang said.