As a result of the rapidly expanding civil aviation industry, by 2005 China had 489 airports of all types and sizes in operation, 389 of which had paved runways and 89 of which had runways of 3,047 meters or shorter. There also were 30 heliports, an increasingly used type of facility. With the additional airports came a proliferation of airlines. In 2002 the government merged the nine largest airlines into three regional groups based in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, respectively: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines, which operate most of China’s external flights. By 2005 these three had been joined by six other major airlines: Hainan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines.
Together, these nine airlines had a combined fleet of some 860 aircraft, mostly Boeing from the United States and Airbus from France. To meet growing demands for passenger and cargo capacity, in 2005 these airlines significantly expanded their fleets with orders placed for additional Boeing and Airbus aircraft expected to be delivered by 2010. In June 2006, it was announced that an Airbus A320 assembly plant would be built in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin, with the first aircraft to be delivered in 2008. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), also called the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, was established as a government agency in 1949 to operate China’s commercial air fleet. In 1988 CAAC’s operational fleet was transferred to new, semiautonomous airlines and has served since as a regulatory agency.
Major airports include the Capital International Airport, located 27 kilometers northeast of central Beijing; two in Shanghai under the control of the Shanghai Airport Authority: Hongqiao International Airport, which is located 13 kilometers west of central Shanghai, and Pudong International Airport, which is located 30 kilometers southeast of central Shanghai; and the new Baiyun International Airport, which opened in August 2004 and is located 28 kilometers from downtown Guangzhou. Other major airports are located at Chengdu, Dalian, Hangzhou, Harbin, Hohhot, Kunming, Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin, Urumqi, Xiamen, and Xi’an.
Additionally, the Hong Kong International Airport, located at Chek Lap Kok on Lantau Island 34 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong Island. China is served both by numerous major international flights to most countries of the world and a host of domestic regional airlines. In 2003 China’s civil aviation sector carried nearly 2.2 million tons of freight and 126.3 trillion passenger/kilometers.