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New route to Europe offers speed at a price


A NUMBER of new airways - the highways of the sky - between Asia and Europe have been agreed, of which the most important is over China. The eventual result will be faster flights.

Talks began in 1983 when the International Air Transport Association (IATA) proposed to China a new airway over its territory.

IATA subsequently believed that both its own proposal, and an alternate proposal from China were unsuitable, mainly because the airway was over a lot of terrain higher than 2,500 metres, which is awkward for international safety regulations.

Eventually, a suitable alterative was agreed late in 1992. The airway runs over Kunming, up to Urumqi and then joins an established international link between Urumqi and Alma-Ata in Kazakhstan.

It is quicker than the current fastest route from Hongkong to Europe - over Beijing and Siberia - operated at present only by Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS).

However, the new airway still has a few drawbacks.


It can be used only by four-engine aircraft because of the high terrain. The reason is that if an aircraft lost the use of one engine, it would steadily lose height, and this might prevent it from getting to an alternate airport.

Also, to operate on this new airway requires another commercial agreement.

China and the states of the former Soviet Union are almost alone in the world in charging airlines (a fee or other commercial benefit) for flying over their countries.

Only Lufthansa and Air France are believed to have such an agreement; they have flown the route on some of their flights, but have not incorporated this into their schedules.


The reason is that the flight is too short! For example, if a flight leaves Hongkong at 11.30 pm on this new airway, it would arrive over Frankfurt shortly after 4.30 am local time.

But it could not land at that time because of Frankfurt's curfew, and it could not leave Hongkong later because of the curfew here.


As a result, some flights have operated on this airway at 40 kph below normal cruising speed, with the aircraft nose tilted slightly up, in order to increase flight time! In turn, this requires more fuel, and indeed, some flights have had to circle on arrival to use fuel so the plane is light enough to land.

DESPITE being named Macau Ring, a new interactive phone booking service for travel to Macau has been introduced with information and booking details, in Cantonese and English, for Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Guangzhou.

Information is free, but to book you need to register, for which the two-year fee is HK$20. There are still a few operating problems - such as using the word ''star'' for the ''flash'' button on the phone.


The (eight-digit) phone number is 922-03022.

SHERATON has introduced a range of long-stay rates at its four hotels in China, in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Xian. They are one to three months, three to six months, and more than six months.

This means, for instance, standard room rates (in US$) at its hotel in Beijing are $85 nightly for a one to three month stay, $75 for three to six months, and $65 over six months. In Shanghai, the rates are $90, $85, $80.


Contact Sheraton reservations, on 739-3535.

STRANGE as it may seem, there has been no official air fare for a direct flight Chengdu-Hongkong (operated twice weekly by Dragonair), although there is one in the other direction.

This has now been rectified, the tariff being 1,300 yuan (about HK$1,740) one-way and double that for a return ticket.

Contact Dragonair reservations, on 736-0202.

THE 113-room marina Ming Wah in Shekou has introduced a golfing package at the new 18-hole Honichi Golf Club in Baoan county, between Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

The one-night package includes full breakfast, transport to and from the golf club, golf and caddy fees.

Prices are HK$820 per person shared, and $1,200 ($2,400, $1,500) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

(Normal Honichi green fees are $400 weekdays, $700 weekends and holidays, plus $80-100 for a caddy. Regular tariffs at the hotel are $450 single/twin.) Contact Swiss-Belhotel, on 522-7003.

Information compiled by Travel Database, GPO Box 12761, Hongkong. Fax: 507-4620