Air China is the flag carrier and one of the major airlines of the People's Republic of China. Based in Beijing it is one of the world’s largest airlines in terms of fleet size but ranks behind its main competitors, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, in terms of passenger traffic.
Second airline to be grounded in a week
Mainland aviation authorities suspended a second airline in a week yesterday in response to nationwide concerns about safety.
All flights today and tomorrow by China Express, an airline that only operates regional services, were cancelled after one of its planes almost crashed in a 'severe safety incident' at the weekend.
The right wing tip of an airliner flying from Shijiazhuang , Hebei province, hit the ground while it was trying to land at Guiyang's Guizhou airport early on Saturday morning, China.com, a state-owned news website, reported yesterday.
It said the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) notified some other airlines about the suspension and was sending an inspection team to investigate. The CAAC also asked China Express to conduct safety checks.
China.com said the notice did not give any further details of Saturday's incident or say how long the suspension would last, but a female employee with the airline's route co-ordination office in Chongqing said that the government asked that flights be suspended today and tomorrow.
'We are not sure whether the flights can resume after Thursday or not,' she said. 'At least there is no such notice [telling us to cancel flights after that].'
Another female employee at the airline's headquarters in Guiyang sidestepped the question about whether it had been banned from operating, saying: 'There's no stipulation on how long it will last. All I know is that our customers can book air tickets after September 6.
'For instance, you can buy a discount ticket offered by our airline heading to Shijiazhuang from Guiyang for 1,030 yuan.'
According to its website, China Express is the mainland's first foreign-invested joint venture airline.
It flies more than 20 routes, including to some small cities and even counties.
A news release posted on the CAAC's website on Tuesday last week said a safety inspection team led by the head of the Guizhou aviation administration had just finished safety checks on China Express.
On the same day, the mainland's first fatal airliner crash in nearly six years killed 42 of the 96 passengers and crew on board an Embraer E-190 trying to land in Yichun , Heilongjiang province.
The operator of that flight, Henan Airlines, also flies many regional routes. All of its flights were suspended by the CAAC.
According to the CAAC, there were 165 airports on the mainland at the end of last year - two-thirds of them small, regional airports serving short-haul fights. China News Service reported that eight more had opened in the first seven months of this year.
Additional reporting by Choi Chi-yuk
Sky's the limit
The mainland had 165 airports at the end of last year, the CAAC says
The number of new airports opened in the first seven months of the year is: 8