China’s air traffic congestion is made worse by military control and will need to be loosened to handle more increase from 2001 commercial jets today versus 4200 commercial jets in 2020

China’s air force controls airspace and allots only 20 percent to civil aviation. With China’s three biggest airlines planning to add at least 273 planes in the next three years, traffic congestion that already delays 25 percent of flights is set to worsen.

“At present, the limited airspace resource has restricted the development of civil aviation,” said Li Jiaxiang, the head of Civil Aviation Administration of China. “We will strive to further open up the airspace,” he said in Beijing yesterday.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines have expanded their fleet as economic growth spurs air travel demand in the world’s most populous nation. China is expected to have 4,200 commercial aircraft in 2020, compared with the current fleet size of 2,001 with 46 airlines, CAAC’s Li said.

Airspace over Europe is managed as a single unit and segregated on a “dynamic basis according to the needs of users,” air traffic supervisory agency Eurocontrol said. In general, areas will only be reserved for military use at certain times and at certain altitudes, it said in an e-mail.

The on-time performance rate of China’s airlines was about 74.5 percent last year, CAAC’s Shi said. In the U.S., 82 percent of the flights arrived on time in 2012.

While carriers await the easing of airspace rules, the nation is expanding its airport infrastructure. Beijing has won approval for its new facility with an investment of more than 70 billion yuan ($11 billion), Beijing News reported in January. The country targets to have 260 airports by 2020 from 183 at present.

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