Airlines cut hundreds of flights at a dozen Chinese airports

Airlines have been ordered to cut a quarter of their flights at a dozen Chinese airports to accommodate four weeks of "high frequency exercises" state media has reported. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Airlines have been ordered to cut a quarter of their flights at a dozen Chinese airports to accommodate four weeks of "high frequency exercises" state media has reported. -- PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING - Airlines have been ordered to cut a quarter of their flights at a dozen Chinese airports to accommodate four weeks of "high frequency exercises" state media has reported.

Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao international airports were among 12 airports largely along the country's east coast affected by the order, which began July 20 and would last until August 15, state broadcaster China Central Television reported on the microblog of its financial channel on Tuesday.

CCTV shared on its Weibo account - China's equivalent of Twitter - a widely circulated memo that said the civil aviation authority has requested airlines to reduce flights by 25 per cent in eastern China.

The post later appeared to have been deleted, Bloomberg has reported.

The statement explained neither the purpose of the exercises nor who issued the order.

Local officials cited "air traffic restrictions" while Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines said "the airspace was occupied", according to the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

Neither source has elaborated on their comments, CNN reported.

"Among situations for air traffic restrictions being imposed are when military maneuvers are taking place," the newspaper added.

The People's Liberation Army on July 15 began three months of live-fire drills in six regional military commands, including the one that oversees Shanghai, state-run Xinhua News Agency said. Some training sessions would be conducted under a "complex electromagnetic environment," the report said.

The flight restrictions hit some of the country's busiest airports at the height of the summer travel season. The two Shanghai airports were ranked among the worst four airports in Asia for flight delays and cancellations in the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Flightstat.com.

Airports in Hangzhou, Hefei, Jinan, Lianyungang, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Wuhan, Wuxi and Zhengzhou were also affected by the order, according to the CCTV post said.