World's highest civilian airport starts operating in China

Beijing, Sep 17 (IANS) The world's highest civilian airport, located 4,411 metres above sea level, started operating Monday in China's Sichuan province, shortening travel time between "the last Shangri-La" and the provincial capital.

Daocheng Yading Airport, located in Daocheng county, Garzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, will cut the traffic time between the county and the provincial capital of Chengdu from two days by bus to 65 minutes by plane, Xinhua reported.

The airport's operation is also a good news for people who wish to travel to the neighbouring regions in Tibet and Yunnan.

The airport will help promote tourism development in the Greater Shangri-la region and thus provide a boost to local economy with more flight services expected to be launched in the future, said Yexe Dawa, governor of the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Garze, at the airport's operation launching ceremony.

Daocheng Yading Airport initially runs a daily route between Chengdu and Daocheng, with a one-way ticket fare of 1,600 yuan (about $260).

Routes connecting Daocheng with Chongqing municipality, a southwest Chinese business hub, and Maerkang county, capital of Sichuan's Aba Tibetan-Qiang autonomous prefecture, are expected to open before Oct 1.

The airport also plans to open routes connecting the county to other cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Xi'an in 2014.

Located 4,411 metres above sea level, it is now the world's highest civilian airport, replacing Bangda Airport of Qamdo in Tibet autonomous region, which is 4,334 metres above sea level.

Construction of the airport took two years with a total investment of 1.58 billion yuan ($255 million) after it was approved in April 2011.

It has a 4,200-meter-long runway, a 8,796-square-meter terminal and four aircraft parking stands. It is designed to handle 280,000 passengers and 1,400 tonnes of cargo annually.

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