Airlines slash prices to beat trains

Updated: 2011-06-25 08:43

By Tan Zongyang and Xu Wei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Airlines linking Beijing, Shanghai and cities between the two cities have been searching for ways to prevent passengers from flowing onto the new high-speed line that will start operation on June 30.

Those measures include more discounts, as well as free train rides and shuttle buses to and from airports.

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Statistics by travel search engine at noon on Friday show the lowest fare for an air ticket from Beijing to Shanghai is 368 yuan ($72) next Thursday, when the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed bullet trains start to run. That price is 42 percent less compared with Friday, or 67 percent off the full price ticket.

The lowest plane ticket price is less than a ticket for a high-speed bullet train, which charges 410 yuan for the cheapest second-class seat.

"Many passengers would like to try the train ride. The new line is sure to drive many passengers from airplanes to trains in the short term, which will lead to a decrease in air ticket prices," Yang Wei, senior director of the air tickets business department at, told China Daily on Wednesday.

He estimated airlines will further cut prices and offer more discounts to meet the fierce competition from the bullet trains.

"In addition, airlines are likely to cut or suspend carriers linking cities along the rail line, especially on the short routes linking Beijing and Jinan or Jinan and Shanghai, due to less passenger flow," Yang said.

On March, flights between Wuhan and Nanjing were edged out after a high-speed line linking the two cities was put into operation.

Meanwhile, airports in cities along the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway are providing quicker check-in services and enabling closer ties with railway stations to further boost passenger flow.

On Monday, the airport in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province, set up special check-in services for passengers heading to Beijing.

"Now for average passengers to Beijing, it only takes about five minutes to check in rather than the 30 minutes it used to be," a staff member at the airport told China Daily on the phone.

Tianjin Airlines started to put the idea of air and rail transport coordination into practice on May 8. Passengers taking the airline to Beijing can transfer from the Tianjin airport to the Tianjin high-speed railway station and then get a free high-speed rail ticket to Beijing.

Fang Yesong, a service development manager at Tianjin Airlines, told China Daily that the coordination system has attracted more than 200 customers since it was launched.

However, according to Zhao Jian, a transport expert at Beijing Jiaotong University, the coordination between air and rail transport still has some issues to cope with before being further promoted.

He said seamless connections between high-speed rail and airports should begin from the stage of infrastructure construction, citing the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and the Hongqiao Railway Station as a good example of seamless connection.

The influence of high-speed railway on airlines can be traced back to 2009, when the opening of the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway significantly reduced the number of flights between the two cities.

Meanwhile, bullet trains between Chengdu and Chongqing in Southwest China have eliminated flights between the two cities.


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