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Hainan links up on the way to creating giant carrier

HAINAN Airlines and its parent joined with the Tianjin government to inaugurate a local carrier today, on the way to creating the biggest regional carrier in Asia.

HNA Group, parent of the China's fourth largest carrier, holds 83.15 percent of the 1.3-billion-yuan (US$190 million) Tianjin Airlines, Hainan Air holds 1.47 percent, with the Tianjin government having the remainder.

The new carrier will be headquartered at the Tianjin Binhai International Airport and is expected to have a fleet of 100 aircraft, covering more than 500 routes linking 100 cities and handling 15 million passengers annually by 2012.

"The establishment of Tianjin Airlines is a key step for the HNA Group to set up a network covering regional and long-haul routes, as well as helping the Tianjin government spur the economy around the Bohai Gulf," said Chen Feng, chairman of the group.

The new carrier will mostly target business passengers traveling between second and third-tier cities in China. It also aims at grabbing 50 percent of domestic regional markets and developing into East Asia, Middle Asia and Russia.

Tianjin Air evolved from Grand China Express, the country's largest regional carrier which was set up by the HNA Group with a registered capital of 600 million yuan.

"Airlines prefer seeking government support against the fallout from the economic downturn, because this can be seen as a win-win deal as the carriers can also help the government boost the local economy," said Zou Jianjun, a professor at Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.

China Eastern Airlines last week signed an agreement with the Yunnan government to set up a joint venture this year to establish a regional air hub at Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province. China Eastern will hold 65 percent of the venture and the provincial government will take the balance.


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