Authorities aim to keep airlines on schedule in stormy conditions
As midsummer approaches with its typical storms and heavy rain, China's civil aviation watchdog has made plans to help airlines improve flight punctuality.
"More days of extreme weather are expected from June to August, the peak summer travel season. It's a challenge for flight punctuality," Sun Shaohua, deputy head of the operations and monitoring center of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, said during a news conference on Tuesday.
Weather forecasters predict that rain will affect southern and northern regions of China, while the central region is likely to see less precipitation through the summer, he said.
About 83 percent of flights were on time in the first 11 days in June - a good start for the rainy season, he said.
Flight punctuality from January to May was 80 percent, an improvement year-on-year of 5.75 percentage points.
To provide a better travel experience for passengers during the wet season - including a better on-time rate - the administration laid down requirements for airports, air traffic control facilities and airlines to increase cooperation to ensure safe and smooth operations in extreme weather.
A guideline was released earlier to ensure improvement in June.
Airports, especially those with an annual capacity of more than 10 million passengers, are required to set up joint management operations with air traffic controllers, airlines and other service providers to respond to major delays and emergencies.
Airports are also required to draft or amend a plan to adjust flight schedules in extreme weather.
Airlines are required to have reasonable flight schedules - leaving sufficient time not only for time in the air but for aircraft taxi time on the ground and boarding and deplaning. Sufficient reserve aircraft capacity is also required to improve the ability to respond to delays.
Some airlines overuse planes, which results in poor flexibility in the face of logjams.
Air traffic controllers will plan detours in the air when extreme weather occurs to lessen pressure on the ground. Civil air traffic control departments will coordinate with military air traffic controllers and ask for more airspace for commercial flights in extreme weather.
The Air Traffic Management Bureau's North China regional office released an air traffic control procedure earlier this month for stormy weather.
To coordinate traffic, the office will have video conferences when necessary with stakeholders - such as meteorologists and air traffic controllers - to make contingency plans for extreme weather, including the way grounded aircraft are released.