The central government is considering subsidies and tax breaks to encourage mainland airlines to re-route some of their international flights to underused airports in the northeast, easing the load on Beijing and Shanghai. However, analysts and airlines say the plan is unlikely to prove popular, once again demonstrating the gulf in thinking between aviation policymakers and the commercial sector. 'To make the best of the growing demand for international traffic, we can also fulfil the goal of operating more international routes from the northeast region,' the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said at its mid-year meeting, according to the minutes published on its website. 'We will look into implementing subsidies on ultra-long-haul flights and enlarging the tax reduction scheme on international routes.' China Eastern Airlines Corp, which operates most of its 115 international routes from Shanghai, said the city was its first priority in a 'hub-and-spoke' network of services to and from overseas destinations. 'We don't simply sell a ticket from Shanghai to New York but from a network to another,' said Wang Jian, secretary of the board of China Eastern. 'You will not be able to fill international flights to and from northeast destinations if you don't have a network from there.' The hub-and-spoke business model, in which international routes or spokes are connected to a major city or hub, has proved highly successful for major international carriers such as Cathay Pacific Airways and Singapore Airlines over the years. There are some examples of point-to-point international routes that are commercially viable, such as services from Dalian to Tokyo and Seoul which have experienced huge passenger demand due to economic and family ties between the cities. Although CAAC officials are well aware of the hub-and-spoke model, they have another agenda to serve - to boost the usage of underused airports and at the same time ease congestion in Beijing and Shanghai where carriers already find it very difficult to secure landing slots. Also, increasing traffic at third-tier airports can help boost the local economies, generating more income for provincial governments to build more small to medium-sized airports to support the development of regional air traffic across the nation. 'Unless such subsidies apply to all long-haul international routes, Chinese airlines may not necessarily receive huge benefits from the policy. We note that most airlines currently make losses on long-haul routes,' Nomura said of the CAAC proposal.