China is investing $80 billion in aviation projects this year alone

Zhengzhou airport’s expansion construction site is seen in Zhengzhou, Henan province, July 8, 2014.
Reuters

When Mangshi opened its airport two decades ago, the small tropical city on China’s border with myanmar national airlines was served by few airlines.

China’s recent travel boom has changed that – seven carriers brought in more than 1 million visitors last year.

“We had a hard time attracting airlines in the early days,” Li Ping, deputy chief of the airport’s expansion steering committee, told Reuters. “Now we are struggling to accommodate flights.”

Mangshi is one of more than 60 inland airports under expansion, with another 30 new regional airports being built. Government planners estimate China’s airports will increase to 240 by 2020 from around 200 today.

Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said this week the country would invest $80 billion in aviation projects this year alone.

The aviation market is being lifted by rising business travel and a surge in outbound tourism fueled by an increasingly wealthy middle class in coastal and inland cities.

The number of leisure travelers going overseas for the first time topped 100 million in 2014, official data shows. Foreign travel is tipped to grow another 10 percent this year as the United States, France and Australia ease visa policies.

A China Southern Airlines airplane arrives at the newly-built terminal 2 building at Tianjin airport, August 28, 2014.
Reuters

That has prompted Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines to fly to New York, Paris and Sydney from Nanjing, Wuhan or Chengdu, or at least with a stopover in those second-tier cities.

China’s so-called Silk Road initiative is also certain to boost traffic. Under the scheme, the government aims to extend its economic and political influence to neighboring countries. A network of railways, highways and new air routes are part of the plan.

Last year passenger volumes at Chengdu’s Shuangliu airport and Chongqing’s Jiangbei airport rose 12.6 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, beating Beijing’s 2.9 percent gain and Guangzhou’s 4.4 percent increase.

Xiamen’s Gaoqi airport handled 20.9 million passengers, far exceeding its designed capacity of 15 million, while Dalian is expected to hit full capacity in 2016.

A check in counter at a Chinese airport.
Flickr/taiyofj

Skeptics warn about white elephant projects such as the barely used $6 million airport in Dachangshan island off China’s northeast coast. Many existing airports are also in losses due to huge upfront investments.

CAAC’s Li said the country’s airport expansion is supported by data showing rising passenger numbers.

“Airport building should be a bit ahead of the demand. Judging from the experience of the developed world, our airport construction is far from enough,” Li said. “We are still unable to catch up with demand.”

FRANTIC BOOM
A China Eastern Airlines plane takes off at an airport in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, April 5, 2013. The battle for China’s domestic air passengers is shifting into the country’s vast interior as carriers blaze trails to new destinations and start subsidiaries in second-tier towns, all with the backing of generous state funding for new airports. Picture taken April 5, 2013.
REUTERS/Jon Woo

Earlier this month, China approved four additional new airports in provinces including Xinjiang and Heilongjiang, costing 16.3 billion yuan ($2.63 billion).

Chongqing, an industrial city in the southwest, is in the middle of a 29.4 billion yuan expansion. A little over three hundred kilometers to the northwest, Chengdu is preparing to build a second airport with six runways and four terminals at a cost of 69.3 billion yuan.

“The Chengdu airport is very busy and discount air fares are hard to get,” Rose Wang, a business woman who often shuttles between Shanghai and Chengdu, told Reuters. “Thirty or 40 percent discounts were normal previously.”

On the coast, Xiamen and Dalian are creating artificial islands for new airports, with landfill effort in Dalian alone costing 26.3 billion yuan.

The aviation boom is boosting sales for global suppliers Thales SA, Indra Industries, Raytheon Co, Lockheed Martin Corp and Honeywell Aerospace.

In May, Honeywell tested its next generation GPS-based precision landing system at Shanghai’s Pudong airport.

Thales has sold 40 air traffic management (ATM) radars in China. It supplies ATM systems to the crucial Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou sectors, and has recently added Urumqi in Xinjiang to its client list.

“Demand for navigation systems will be on the rise as more airports are built or expanded which will also result in more demands in ATM systems as well as surveillance technologies,” Xia Jinsong, deputy chief executive officer with Thales China, told Reuters. “That means more business opportunity for us.”

In Mangshi, where passenger volume is expected to exceed the designed capacity of its airport, a more urgent issue is at hand.

Its runway needs to be extended by 400 meters to 2,600 meters to handle Junyao Airlines’ A320 and Xiamen Airlines’ B737-800 jets. Only B737-700 and A319 jets can fly in for now.

“We have to keep the airlines waiting as our runway is too short and not safe enough for bigger planes,” said Li of the airport’s expansion committee.

($1 = 6.2077 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Fang Yan and Matthew Miller in BEIJING; Editing by Ryan Woo)

Australia: Mozambique debris likely from Malaysia jet

FILE – In this Monday, March 21, 2016, a part of a plane is photographed in Mossel Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. The part which may be part of a plane engine has been found on the southern coast of South Africa and will be checked to see if it belongs to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished two years ago, Malaysian Tranport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Tuesday, March 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Neels Kruger, File)
syndication.ap.org

SYDNEY (AP) – Two pieces of debris recently discovered along the coast of Mozambique are “highly likely” to have come from missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Australian and Malaysian officials said Thursday.

An analysis of the parts by an international investigation team showed both pieces are consistent with panels from a Malaysia myanmar national airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, Transport Minister Darren Chester said in a statement.

“The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370,” Chester said.

The dimensions, materials and construction of both parts conform to those of a 777, and the paint and stenciling on both parts match those used by Malaysia Airlines, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said in a separate statement.

The discovery of the two pieces provides another piece of the puzzle into the plane’s fate, and bolsters authorities’ assertion that the plane went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean. But whether the debris can provide any clues into exactly what happened to the aircraft and why is uncertain.

Cheap airlines around the world

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No one wants to overpay for flights.

But with some airlines, you don’t have to hoard miles or wait for a flash sale to score cheap tickets.
Low-cost carriers can save wallet-conscious travelers hundreds of dollars on airfare – if only you know where to find them.

Cheap airlines are more prevalent than ever, even offering steeply discounted rates on international flights. And there are new carriers cropping up every day, offering competitive prices on popular routes and stripped-down tickets for no-frills travelers who don’t need much to stay comfortable on a flight.

Budget airlines utilize a number of strategies to cut costs

and keep ticket prices low (sometimes, flights may be 50% cheaper than full-service competitors). Some, like Norwegian Air and WOW, operate newer, more fuel efficient aircraft. Others, including JetBlue and RyanAir, get discounts for placing bulk orders for aircraft. When airlines save on jet fuel or airplanes, they’re able to pass on those savings to travelers.

Strategies for selling inexpensive tickets are sometimes more obvious. Spirit Airlines, for example, has slashed already meager baggage allowances

, and charges for seat selection and in-flight refreshments, including water.

Bargain airfare can be found in virtually every country – these are the airlines every traveler needs to know about for cheap airline tickets.

North America

BrunoSchalch / Flickr

JetBlue

In addition to being one of the country’s most affordable airlines, Long Island-based JetBlue is also the fifth largest airline in the United States. From hubs in New York City, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and San Juan, travelers can reach more than 90 destinations across the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Travelers may not be able to take JetBlue flights across the pond (yet), but the airline is beloved for serving complimentary snacks – like those iconic blue chips – while still offering wallet-friendly prices. The airline is also well known for regular flash sales, with fares as low as $39 one-way

.

Southwest Airlines

Best known for its valuable loyalty program

(you can even get a year-long Companion Pass for your favorite travel buddy), Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, Texas. More than 90 destinations are reachable with this budget-friendly airline, including Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Los Cabos) and the Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas, among others).

In addition to regular flash sales, Southwest has been known to apologize for flight delays with $49 trips and offer complimentary light snacks. For better or for worse, the airline doesn’t assign seats – so families may want to opt for Business Select fares to ensure they’re one of the first to board.

Jerry Landers / Flickr

Frontier Airlines

With the motto “low fares done right,” it’s no surprise this Rocky Mountain carrier has a reputation for cheap flights. They’ve even gone so far as to offer $1 flights

to select cities. Frontier flies to more than 55 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic – and they’ve even established a new route to Cuba.

Travelers should know that the price for a cheap Frontier flight might come in the form of tiny bathrooms and thin seats. They are, however, making the middle seat less terrible

, offering travelers an extra inch of width as a consolation for being wedged in the middle.

WestJet

Canada’s budget carrier has been around since 1996, though they still haven’t aced customer service

. But the airline’s service has been expanding, and travelers can even take cheap transatlantic flights. And unlike most low-cost carriers, your ticket actually includes a checked bag. While useful for regional service around Canada, the airline also has plenty of flights to nearly 90 cities in the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Europe.

Suhyeon Choi/Unsplash

VivaAerobus

One of the first low-cost airlines to enter the Mexican market, VivaAerobus just upgraded its entire fleet with brand new Airbus A320s. While this airline is largely useful for travelers navigating around Mexico, there are a handful of flights to the United States available (think: El Paso, Texas).

Volaris

Flying Volaris won’t be something to write home about, but the Mexico-based low-cost airline does offer very cheap airline flights to more than 60 destinations in Mexico, the United States, Central America, and Puerto Rico.

Europe

Rob Mitchell / Flickr

EasyJet

Europe’s second-largest discount airline brand is present in 32 countries, making it a smart option for cheap international flights. In addition to cheap tickets, the airline has also become somewhat well known for being an innovator in the industry. To further cut costs (and, theoretically, pass on those savings to travelers) EasyJet is exploring the use of drones to inspect aircraft

. The airline is also exploring an investment in 100 new A320s.

Norwegian Air

This budget airline disrupted transatlantic travel when it launched $69 one-way fares

from the United States to Europe in 2017. Norwegian may be based in Norway, but it has one of the most extensive networks of any budget carrier, operating flights to the Middle East, Africa, Thailand, Europe, and the United States. How are they making this magic happen? Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos has raved about his new, fuel-efficient fleet of Boeing 737MAX airplanes.

Roel Hemkes / Flickr

Ryanair

Ireland-based Ryanair has a reputation for offering ridiculously cheap flash sales and free flight giveways. If you’re looking to do some regional travel around Europe (England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Norway, and other Western European countries) keep a close eye on Ryanair’s Twitter feed. The airline loves to announce last-minute 2.99 trips

, and has even indicated an interest in making flights free within the next decade

.

Vueling

Don’t expect much in the way of cabin comfort from this Spain-based budget airline. But unlike many cheap carriers, frequent travelers can earn points on Vueling and partner flights. While the main hubs are in Barcelona and Rome, travelers can connect to more than 140 destinations across Europe.

Facebook/WOW Iceland

WOW Air

Iceland’s low-cost carrier began operating transatlantic flights as recently as June 2015 – though it’s these cheap fares to Europe that have attracted the most attention. While best known for selling $99 one-way tickets, WOW Air has lowered the cost even further, selling $69 flights from West Coast cities to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol, and Edinburgh.

LEVEL

Launching in June 2017, this low-cost airline

from International Airlines Group (owner of full-service airlines British Airways and Iberia) will introduce cheap trips between the West Coast and Spain, with routes to Argentina and the Caribbean to follow.

Inaugural flights between California and Barcelona sold for $149 one-way, though the airline charges ancillary fees for in-flight food, seat assignments, and checked luggage.

Asia

Pexels

Cebu Pacific Air

Not everyone can have the good fortune of being born on a Cebu Pacific Air flight

(and, consequentially, receiving a lifetime of free Cebu Pacific Air flights). Known commonly as just Cebu Pacific, this low-cost airline based in the Philippines is headquartered in Manila, and operates 57 aircraft – a mix of Airbuses in varying shapes and sizes. Their network is quite substantial, too. Travelers can catch Cebu Pacific flights from Australia, India, Myanmar, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Japan, and Indonesia, to name a few. Cebu connects nearly 40 destinations in the Philippines, and even flies to the U.S. territory of Guam, among others.

AirAsia

Travelers love this low-cost carrier, with hubs scattered across Asia. You might not even realize you’re flying on a budget airline: on long-haul AirAsia X trips, travelers can upgrade to business class, where there are lie-flat seats. Look for AirAsia’s affordable tickets on flights to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines.

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

IndiGo

One of India’s largest airlines, IndiGo serves dozens of cities in India from hubs in New Delhi and Mumbai – though travelers can also take the airline to nearby, international cities including Dubai, Singapore, and Bangkok. Pros of flying with IndiGo include a free checked bag and complimentary water (surprisingly hard to come by). But travelers should be prepared with old-fashioned activities, like books and crossword puzzles. After all, the airline has neither in-flight entertainment nor Wi-Fi.

Tigerair

Southeast Asia-based fliers love Tigerair, which has a reputation for being less strict about carry-on bag limits. Of course, you’ll pay for the leniency in other departments. There’s a fee for using your credit card, for checking a bag, and for selecting your seat. Tigerair’s main hub is in Singapore, though it services over 50 destinations across the region.

Blue Stahli Lun / Flickr

VietJet

Vietnam’s burma international airport low-cost carrier is a comparatively new addition to the compendium of budget airlines crisscrossing the globe. Travelers can use this airline to cheaply hop between major Vietnamese cities, though it also flies to Bangkok, Taiwan, Hangzhou, Singapore, Siem Reap, and other major Asian hubs.

SpiceJet

India’s SpiceJet airline operates hundreds of daily flights to 45 cities. Most of those destinations are in India (Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad, for example) though it also flies to six international destinations, including Colombo, Sri Lanka.

MIKI Yoshihito / Flickr

Peach

Considered Japan’s first low-cost carrier, one major downside to flying with Peach is their boarding process, which separates travelers from their companions. But if you don’t mind sitting solo (or reconnecting after boarding) travelers can use Peach to connect to major cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Busan, Taipei, Shanghai, and Bangkok.

Peach’s fleet is entirely Airbus A320s, though the secret to the airline’s instant popularity may have more to do with its exclusive terminal at Kansai Airport.

Scoot Airlines

In 2013, Scoot made headlines by creating a ScootinSilence upgrade, banning children under the age of 12 from certain rows. But in general, this Singapore-based budget airline is known for offering reasonable prices on long-haul flights. Destinations include Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jaipur, and others. The airline is transitioning to a modern fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

South America

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GOL Airlines

Free music and videos for travelers with mobile devices is a major perk for travelers flying with this So Paulo, Brazil-based carrier. Destinations serviced by GOL include South America, the Caribbean, and select destinations in the United States. GOL is best flown by travelers who pack extremely light, as carry-on suitcases must not exceed 22 pounds.

Azul Airlines

Travelers exploring Brazil will love Azul, which boasts an intricate network of local routes – and, more recently, select non-stop flight to destinations in the United States, including Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Europe, and South America. During flights, Azul offers passengers an assortment of complimentary snacks and drinks (including mango juice and polvilho
cookies) as well as live TV entertainment.

Africa

hxdyl/Shutterstock

FastJet

Get around Africa swiftly and cheaply with FastJet, which operates cheap fares to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania, among other popular destinations on the continent.

Mango

You can’t miss Mango, with its bright orange livery, when it takes to the skies. Travelers on these affordable domestic flights in South Africa will fly on new Boeing 737-800s, and even enjoy onboard Wi-Fi. Destinations serviced include Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and bi-weekly trips to Zanzibar.

Middle East

Air Arabia

Based in the United Arab Emirates, this top-ranked budget carrier operates regularly scheduled flights to other destinations in the Middle East, as well as cities in North Africa, India, Central Asia, and Europe. While the main airport is Sharjah International Airport, the airline also focuses attention on Ras Al Khaimah (also in the UAE), Alexandria, and Casablanca. Travelers appreciate flying with the modern fleet of Airbus A320-200s.

Flydubai

Papas Dos / Flickr

Flydubai may have only launched in 2009, but the Emirati airline already reaches 85 destinations (primarily the Middle East and Gulf countries, Africa, Central Asia, India, and Europe) with a young fleet of Boeing 737-800s. Highlights of Flydubai include the HD touch screen in every seat and the option to purchase snacks and hot meals on select flights.

Oceania

JetStar

Having since expanded to markets across Asia, including Jetstar Pacific in Vietnam and Jetstar Japan, this airline was originally created to be the low-cost answer to Australia’s full-service airline, Qantas. Expect strict baggage limits in exchange for access to markets across Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.