December 6, 2008

China’s first private airline cuts flights

China's first private airline, OK Air, suspended passenger service earlier than planned Saturday amid financial and management difficulties, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for Junyao Group, a major shareholder of OK Air, disclosed passenger service ended ahead of the Dec. 15 shutdown date announced previously, Xinhua reported.

The state-run Chinese news service said that since planes could not be fueled and passengers could not get normal boarding service, at least 10 flight routes were suspended.

At the Tianjin Binhai International Airport, a major hub for the carrier east of Tianjin, OK Air's 12 passenger routes from the airport had been suspended. The more than 700 passengers affected by the suspension there were transferred to other airlines or the Beijing Capital International Airport.

More than 2,000 passengers were stranded at airports across China, company sources said.

OK Air began operations in March 2005. Shanghai-based Junyao Group, through the Beijing Transport Energy Shareholding Co., owns 63 percent of the airline. The company has 11 planes and about 800 employees.

The airline operated domestic passenger routes serving the cities of Tianjin, Changsha, Hefei, Kunming, Harbin, Hangzhou, Haikou and Sanya.