China tells officials to fly discounted on government travel

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China has ordered officials to buy discount airfares for business trips, as part of Beijing's campaign to crack down on wasteful government spending.

The new rules ban officials from travelling on full-price tickets and force domestic airlines to offer discounts of at least 12 per cent.

Government employees are also required to take domestic carriers as much as possible when traveling abroad, according to the rules jointly released by the Ministry of Finance and the Civil Administration of China on Tuesday.

If domestic carriers do not provide a direct international service, officials should fly on a domestic carrier to a neighbouring country and then transfer to a foreign carrier that can take them to the destination country, the rules state.

The Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping has been publicising efforts to curb wasteful spending and corruption to bolster the government's image, which has been shaken by suspicions that officials waste taxpayer money on extravagances even as economic growth slows.

Spending on official meetings, overseas trips and vehicle purchases plunged last year from 2012, according to the Communist party's chief disciplinary body.

The impact of the new rules on air travel, which take effect June 1, is difficult to estimate, industry insiders say. Strict execution of the policy may not be possible due to travelling needs and the availability of flights, especially for overseas trips.

"It's hard to gauge the impact on airlines right now as it depends on how strictly the policy would be executed," said Wang Jian, board secretary of China Eastern Airlines Corp .