China to build 45 new airports in five years

Emergence of high-speed rail services to compete for eager travellers

China’s plan to construct 45 airports over the coming five years is designed to satisfy a country increasingly on the move. Demand for air travel is growing rapidly, particularly among the middle classes. One forecast says that passenger demand will increase by 15% in 2011 alone.
The government will invest the equivalent of around €166 billion in the aviation sector up to 2015, although it is not clear how much of that will be invested in airports. However, 130 of the country’s 175 existing airports are currently making a combined annual loss of €190 million. Many new airports in smaller cities are still operating only a handful of flights a week. Meanwhile, new high-speed rail lines, for example one between Guangzhou and Wuhan that slashes the journey time to just three hours from the previous 10 hours, are becoming a powerful competitor for the aviation sector.
A boost to aviation in China could come now that the government has decided to lower the airspace limit to below 4000 metres. That could bring thousands more light aircraft and helicopters into use in the aviation sector.
[pictured: Beijing Airport, which handled more than 65 million pax in 2009]