Aug. 26 – Tibet is following other provinces in China and is to have its own airline, with operations set to start from August next year.
The company, which has just recently been granted state-level approval, has been formed and is a joint venture between the Tibet Autonomous Region Investment Co. holding the majority stake of 51 percent and Tibet Sanli Investment and Tibet Ruiyi Investment holding 39 percent and 10 percent shares, respectively.
Tibet Airlines has already purchased three Airbus A319s, and hopes to introduce services from August 2011. Tibet is currently served by six airlines operating 16 routes, including Air China and Sichuan Airlines who make up the bulk of the traffic and scheduled weekly flights also being made by China Southern, China Eastern, Shenzhen Airlines and Hainan Air.
Tibet has five airports, at Lhasa, Qamdo, Nyringchi, Ngari and Xigaze, while a sixth is currently under construction at Nagqu. Tibet Airlines, which has been recently capitalized at US$41 million, hopes to link various parts of Tibet with each other and also other Chinese destinations. The fleet is expected to grow to 20 aircraft by 2015, and the airline is hopeful of being able to obtain international flights also.
The Airbus A319 is one of the manufacturers smaller jets, usually configured with 120 seats, and is commonly used for short-haul tourism. It does have an intercontinental range of up to 6,850 kilometers and is often configured as a corporate jet. It has the benefit of also being produced in China, at the Airbus facility in Tianjin. Over 1,500 Airbus A319s have been ordered worldwide, with some 1,300 currently in operation. The Tianjin plant has just supplied its 26th Chinese assembled A319 to West Air – another China based airline from Chongqing.
Tibet’s tourism industry has been booming, especially among Chinese nationals, and flights to Tibet have been at capacity during the main tourist season now for the past few years. Local airports handling capacity have been growing at double digit rates over the past three years. Last year some 5.6 million tourists visited Tibet, up 150 percent from 2008.