Asia's budget airline boom bypasses China
HONG KONG (AP) - When businesswoman Ms Ren Hong flew home after a recent trip to Beijing on state-owned Air China, she was hoping for a decent inflight meal to tide her over until she got back to the spicy cuisine of her native Sichuan province.
The airline's meagre offering, which was little more than "just bread," was a galling experience for Ms Ren who wondered why the carrier didn't cut both the pretense of full service and the price of the ticket.
Her gripe highlights how Chinese travelers have been left out of the massive budget airline boom that has swept Asia. From almost none a decade ago, the region now has more than 50 low cost carriers. The fast growth of no-frills airlines such as AirAsia and the slew of recent start-ups including Singapore's Scoot and AirAsia Japan underline surging demand in the region for affordable air travel. The rise of budget carriers in Asia follows similar expansion in Europe and North America in previous decades.
But in China, where the government still keeps tight control of the rapidly growing airline industry, three big state-owned carriers dominate. Aviation authorities' efforts to shield them, as well as keep the industry from growing too rapidly and compromising safety, mean travelers like Ms Ren pay up to twice as much.