China will build 70 new airports within the next three years, the head of the country's aviation watchdog has said, as part of ambitious expansion plans in the industry despite an economic slowdown.
Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) chief Li
Jiaxiang also reiterated pledges that carriers would buy on average more than
300 planes a year from 2011 to 2015 - the country's current five-year economic
"China plans to build 70 new airports in the next few
years and to expand 100 existing airports," he told delegates in Beijing
at the annual general meeting of global airline industry group IATA.
He added that the number of airports would reach more than
230 by the end of 2015, and that Chinese carriers would operate around 4,700
planes by then.
The aggressive expansion comes after IATA head Tony Tyler
warned that global airline profits would more than halve this year on the back
of surging oil prices and the eurozone crisis.
The airline industry in the Asia-Pacific region is
expected to turn in a $2bn (£1.3bn) profit in 2012, according to IATA figures
released on the sidelines of the AGM, but this still represents less than half
of the region's 2011 profit.
The group did not provide specific projections for the
China market - which has so far experienced booming growth due to rising demand
for air travel as increasingly affluent Chinese people travel more frequently.
But it said part of the reason behind the projected drop
in profits in Asia-Pacific was a slowdown in the Indian and Chinese economies.
Li added that by the end of 2011, China had 2,888
commercial planes in operation and its aviation industry employed 1.2m people.
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