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China Eastern to grow Beijing presence

CHINA Eastern Airlines plans to invest 15 billion yuan (US$2.2 billion) in adding about 20 planes to the Beijing market within three years to enhance its presence in its biggest market outside Shanghai.

The Beijing unit of the Shanghai-based carrier will run a total of 50 aircraft within three years, with nine introduced this year.

"We are aiming to boost our market share in Beijing to 20 percent within five years from the current 13 percent," Chairman Liu Shaoyong said yesterday in Beijing.

"We are applying for more flights in Beijing now," he said. The carrier runs 32 direct flights in Beijing, delivering 7.1 million passengers last year.

Shanghai Airlines, which is in talks with China Eastern about a merger, now holds 5 percent of the Beijing market, and the merger is expected to bring them a bigger market share in the capital, Liu said.

"Details of the merger plan are expected to be published next week as we still need go through some procedures, and we have passed all items of the plan," Liu said.

He said they will raise frequency between Shanghai and Beijing to one flight half an hour after the merger, compared with one flight per hour at present.

The two Shanghai carriers were suspended from trading on June 8 for merger talks. Zhou Chi, chairman of Shanghai Airlines, said earlier that China Eastern would hold a controlling stake in Shanghai Airlines, but the smaller retain its entity and brand.


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