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China’s aviation watchdog slams Hangzhou airport ahead of G-20 world leaders summit

Shi Jiangtao | South China Morning Post
A member of a tourist group rests in the departure hall in the Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou.
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

Just days ahead of the opening of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in the eastern coastal city of Hangzhou, the city's airport has been condemned by aviation authorities as one of the worst managed in the country.

As one of four airports named and shamed by the Civil Aviation Administration last week, Hangzhou Xiaoshan was banned from getting new flights, routes or charters. The other three airports were Shanghai's Pudong, Shanghai's Hongqiao and Lukou in Nanjing.

Those airports took the bottom four spots in a recent national ranking, according to China News Service.

The aviation authority has stepped up efforts to address poor flight-on-time rates over recent months amid widespread complaints, slapping penalties on the worst-performing airports and airlines.

Pudong International Airport was one of the four Chinese airports criticized by the Civil Aviation Administration.
VCG | Getty Images

Authorities insist their efforts have already seen some improvement. Flight punctuality in July was more than 73 per cent, up from about 68 per cent in both 2015 and 2014 – the lowest rate since the data was made publicly available in 2006, according to official statistics published in May. Flight delays jumped from an average of 19 minutes in 2014 to 21 minutes last year.

In its brief announcement, the regulator also admitted that Shanghai's Pudong had made little improvement in terms of its flight-on-time rate since March, while Shanghai's Hongqiao had failed to meet its internal standards since June. Nanjing's Lukou had failed to address constant delays in May and July, it said.

Although flight punctuality at Hangzhou Xiaoshan saw some improvement in July, the airport was penalized for its poor flight-on-time rate in June.

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The authority did not say if the ban would have any impact on the G-20 summit, to be held in Hangzhou from September 4-5.

China's airports are still consistently ranked among the worst in the world in terms of flight punctuality.

Air traffic controllers, bad weather and poor management of airlines were to blame for nearly 80 per cent of flight delays last year, the aviation regulator was quoted by China Central Television as saying. Authorities also admitted that military activities were a contributing factor, accounting for some 13 per cent of the delays.

It is an open secret that the PLA Air Force controls most of the country's airspace. The lack of progress in flight punctuality over the past months was believed to have been closely linked to China's growing assertiveness in conducting military drills and exercises.

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