Chinese airlines to face tough penalties for delays

Six-month crackdown will see warnings handed out, with companies at risk of losing flight slots for poor service that brings passenger protests

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 July, 2013, 5:31am

The mainland's civil aviation watchdog has vowed to tackle the problem of flight delays by hitting airlines with tough penalties.

Li Jiaxiang, of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), was cited by its website as telling a conference on Thursday that a six-month crackdown would be launched.

The administration would also increase penalities on related parties that cause delays.

Domestic airlines will receive internal warnings if their on-time flight rankings are in the bottom 20 of all airlines, or if flight delays occur more than half the time, according to details of the meeting reported by The Beijing News.

If the delays were caused by air traffic control, airports, fuelling delays or other causes outside the airlines' control, the parties responsible would be penalised following an official investigation.

In the case of delays or poor service that trigger serious protests by passengers, airlines risk losing all their flight slots in the current season and will lose the right to apply for flight slots in the next season, The Beijing News added.

The stricter rules were announced amid rising public complaints about flight delays.

A recent survey by FlightStats, a US-based airport statistics tracker, said Beijing and Shanghai airports had the worst record for on-time departures and arrivals among 35 major international airports. Hong Kong came 29th. FlightStats noted that 230 Air China flights were cancelled on Monday this week.

On Tuesday, 233 flights were cancelled at Beijing Capital International Airport and 1,126 flights were delayed by more than four hours.

"It's hard to blame an airport or an airline alone when flight delays happen," said Cui Kai, of the Beijing Capital International Airport news centre.

"The CAAC controls the order of take-offs and landings. The Military controls the airspace. And there's also the impact of the weather."

Cui confirmed that Beijing Capital International Airport had been notified of CAAC's stricter penalties for flight delays.

In response, the airport is mobilising its resources to ensure its facilities are in good order, and that service teams are available to guide stranded travellers and to minimise complaints and violent incidents.

The head of Cathay Pacific Airways yesterday attributed the company's fluctuating on-time performance record to unfavorable weather conditions and increased activity last month.

"We had quite a few bad weather days both here in Hong Kong and certainly in China, so that's a big part of the issue," chief executive officer John Slosar said.

"It's a busy time. Hong Kong is busy. The mainland is busy. When the weather disrupts [aviation] it makes it all the more difficult for things to run smoothly."

There has been an increase in violent incidents related to flight delays in the mainland.

On July 6, three Shanghai passengers angry about a delay attacked ground service workers. They were arrested and fined.

Professor Fu Song, vice-dean of the school of aerospace at Tsinghua University, said: "The key reason for frequent flight delays is excessive air traffic.

"Airlines should decrease the number of flights. And Beijing could build its third airport."

Additional Reporting by Bryan Harris