China's civil aviation regulator has unveiled sweeping changes to the mainland aviation market aimed at ensuring bruising competition arising out of deregulation does not undermine industry profitability. Beijing will expand protection to its three new dominant airline groups by increasing the number of routes that are not subject to competition in a move that appears designed to ensure that 'destructive competition' does not erode the financial position of carriers. A report on the People's Daily Web-site said control of flight frequencies would be centralised and other regulatory controls would be tightened. New regulations would include an extension of the proposed ban on regional airlines flying to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to forbid stopovers at six of the largest secondary air hubs in the country while en route to the three cities, the report said. In addition, regional carriers servicing those three cities must maintain average passenger loads in excess of 65 per cent, in a move apparently aimed at stopping dumping of excess capacity on those routes. The announcement of the changes by the General Administration for Civil Aviation in China (CAAC) in the online version of the People's Daily yesterday outlined two areas of major change which were attributed to Beijing's 15th Civil Aviation Development Plan and the sector's new '10-year blueprint'. The CAAC was assigned a purely regulatory role following the reorganisation in October of the nine main airlines under its control under the umbrella of three holding companies led by Air China, now renamed China National Aviation Co (CNAC), China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines. It said the proposed ban on regional airlines flying to the so-called triangle route between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - which account for the largest share of domestic air travel - would be enacted formally with the start of the airlines' summer and autumn schedules. In addition, this ban would be extended to forbid stopovers for flights to the three cities through Shenyang, Urumqi, Xian, Chengdu, Kunming and Wuhan. These cities are home to five of the six former secondary carriers that were folded into the three national airline groups, plus Wuhan Airlines which is controlled by China Eastern. The only city of significance not included in the announcement was Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, the base of CNAC-Zhejiang Airlines which has now been merged into the new CNAC holding company. The CAAC said that exceptions would only be made in the case of regions at risk of losing air services to the major cities because of the new rules or because of technical limitations on the range of aircraft. The report gave no further details of how frequencies would be allocated. The latest announcement follows a report from the CAAC last month that it was developing plans to relax air fare pricing controls for its carriers.