The economy may not be the only factor, however. The quality of Chinese air services has been declining because carriers have been increasingly incapable of operating their flights on time.
An international survey finds that Beijing Capital and Shanghai Pudong Airports have the world’s least-punctual services. The air force’s restrictive control of air space is usually blamed, although the military recently seems to have tried to place the blame on shoddy airline management.
Whatever the cause, Chinese media has been full of reports of delayed flights in recent months. A typical story — one of scores — recounts how travelers waiting for a 1-hr. flight from Ningbo to Xiamen were kept cooling their heels for 20 hr.—while the carrier, Xiamen Airlines, came up with varying reasons for the delay.
Airlines provide faster service than China’s 300-kph (190-mph.) trains — if the aircraft leave on time. And Guo points out that the 5-hr. train service between Beijing and Shanghai offers the opportunity for 5-hr. of work in a comfortable seat, something to be envied by air travelers trapped in an aircraft awaiting takeoff clearance.