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China to ease restrictions on long-haul routes

China’s aviation regulator will ease its policy of having only one airline on a long-haul international route from 1 October, paving the way for greater competition in the segment.

In a statement on its website, the Civil Aviation Administration of China says the current policy was implemented in 2009, but change is necessary as China’s international air transport market has entered into a different growth phase. The revised policy will also help build Beijing as a major aviation hub, with the opening of its second airport at Daxing next year.

The regulator has divided international routes into two categories. Airlines will face no restrictions to first category routes, which have at least some sort of an open skies agreement with China.

The second category comprises all routes outside category one, but divided into long haul – those to Europe, the USA, Oceania and Africa – and non-long-haul routes.

Airlines seeking to operate these long-haul routes will face some restrictions. The regulator will determine consumer interests on the route, how it helps in hub development, resource allocation and service quality.

China first implemented the “one route, one airline” policy largely to prevent state-owned carriers from competing too aggressively on the same sectors, killing profitability.

Since the announcement of a second airport in Beijing, however, anchor tenants China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, have been pushing to expand their international network out of the country’s capital, which is dominated by flag carrier Air China.

The Star Alliance carrier will continue to helm the existing Beijing Capital International airport after the new gateway opens.

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