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China's air transport market continues to expand, although growth levels were more subdued in 2011, with 2012 also promising modest growth.
China has emerged as Asia-Pacific's largest player in air transport over the past decade. But its growth ambitions for the next 10 years and beyond go much further.
Last year China revealed a strategic vision to build a powerful civil aviation industry, with internationalisation, mass air travel and safety as three pillars. The aim is to turn the country into a strong global competitor in the next 20 years.
This vision may be ambitious but is not unrealistic. China's civil aviation has already achieved success through two domestic industry reforms in 1987 and 2002.
This has moved it from a government-controlled industry towards market liberalisation. It realised a total turnover of 41.2 billion tonne-kilometres in 2009, ranking it second in the world. This has laid a solid foundation for the industry to move on.
The industry experienced double-digit traffic growth from 2004 through 2010, with 2010 clearly a banner year of recovery for China, after the downturn in 2008/09. Over the past decade, departures have increased from 69,810 scheduled air services and 5.56 million available seats in 1982, to 2.39 million air services and 366.87 million available seats in 2011.
The number of air passengers travelling internationally from the country is predicted to rise by 10.8% a year until 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), while cargo volumes are expected to increase even faster, at 12.2% annually.
The four airports in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou accounted for 32% of the total throughput of Chinese airports. In particular, Beijing Capital International Airport ranked No.1 in Asia and No.2 in the world with a passenger throughput of 79 million person-times; Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport ranked No.2 in China with a passenger throughput of 45 million person-times.
According to the ranking of airlines by passenger traffic in the first three quarters of 2012, China Southern Airlines ranks No.1 with 65.037 million person-times, followed by China Eastern Airlines with 55.181 million person-times, Air China with 37.242 million person-times, and Hainan Airlines with 16.71 million person-times.
In the first three quarters of 2012, top four airlines accounted for 72.81% of the national total air passenger traffic.
For more information on the Chinese air transport market, see the latest research: Chinese Air Transport Market
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