Monday, August 13, 2007

China Crisis?

With Beijing anticipating the globe's biggest sporting event next August, China is bracing itself for the huge challenges of handling millions of extra people expected. I'm not sure that I see the equation too clearly but passenger traffic on Chinese airlines is forecast to rise 16 percent to 185 million journeys in 2007. This makes it one of the fastest growing aviation sectors in the world, but the industry is still dogged by airport under-capacity.

Flying in China is an interesting experience. I was there eleven years ago and while things have definitely improved Beijing airport was an experience I'll never forget - it made Bombay seem like a walk in the park. It's all a recipe for frustration as one man found out last year on a flight between Beijing and Shenyang in North Eastern China - he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. His determination to continue sending text messages led to the delay of the flight by one hour. So intent on remaining in contact with his SMS correspondent that he ignored the repeated and increasingly earnest requests of the cabin crew to desist. Finally one of his fellow passengers joined in the debate, angry at the delay to departure the man’s activities were causing. Finally it got so bad that the two passengers got into a fight.

The Chinese use mobile phones, and text messages in particular, very extensively. In 2005 the 388 million subscribers in the country sent 305 billion text messages, an average of 843 million every day.

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