China Southern Airlines, the largest mainland airline by passenger numbers, yesterday urged Beijing to drop its civil infrastructure fund levy on airlines to help the industry survive the economic downturn. 'I think the government should cancel the civil infrastructure fund now,' Si Xianmin, the chairman of the Guangzhou-based airline, said at the World Economic Forum in Dalian yesterday. Airlines were an integral part of the public transport sector and should not be subject to the levy, Si (right) said. Instead, the government should inject capital to develop infrastructure such as airports to help public transport. Beijing waived the levy last year to help mainland airlines weather the downturn in the industry caused by the global slump. However, it restored the levy from July 1. China Southern received 1.3 billion yuan (HK$1.48 billion) in levy refunds in the first half, which helped keep it in the black during the period. Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines Corp also got 877 million yuan in refunds from the infrastructure fund in the first half and Air China had about 700 million yuan returned. Despite a rebound in domestic air traffic in the first seven months, China Southern and China Eastern still operated at a loss in the first half after stripping out the impact of the refunds and fuel hedging gains. China Southern earned 25 million yuan in interim net profit while China Eastern had a one billion yuan profit. Air China earned 2.9 billion yuan. Mainland airlines carried 17.3 per cent more passengers in the first seven months than a year earlier. Cargo volume fell 5.8 per cent year on year. Shares in China Southern fell 2.7 per cent to close at HK$2.56 yesterday while China Eastern closed 0.41 per cent down at HK$2.44. Air China rose 1.1 per cent to HK$4.81.