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City to cut airport food costs down to Earth

Travelers long angered by the high-altitude food costs at Shanghai airports should soon be finding more moderately priced dumplings, noodles and other meals and drinks.

 

The city price authority, responding to a lawmaker's proposal that was approved by city government, has promised to make sure vendors at the two local airports slash their food charges.

 

Food chains operating at the airports will have to offer prices similar to those at their downtown outlets, according to the Shanghai Development and Reform Commission, which decides the price levels of local products.

 

And the menus of other airport eateries will be checked to ensure their charges are closer to those in outside markets.

 

Price adjustments will be made in phases, and the final cuts will come before the Shanghai World Expo in May 2010, a half-year event that's expected to draw 70 million out-of-town visitors, mostly Chinese.

 

The Hongqiao Airport, primarily serving domestic flights, has received more complaints about food prices than the Pudong International Airport for years.

 

The Shanghai Airport Authority, the local airport operator, said it is working on plans to stimulate lower food prices at both airports.

 

The company said it is learning from overseas airports in Hong Kong and Singapore that are renowned for their food services.

 

In particular, the airport operator says it may consider lowering shop rents, among other more friendly business terms, to lure a wider range of food suppliers.

 

Zhang Qinggang, the Shanghai People's Congress deputy who submitted the price proposal, said the costly airport food puts "a heavy burden on air travelers."

 

A bowl of dumplings can cost about 35 yuan (US$5.14), which is more than twice the price at ordinary eateries downtown.

 

And a bowl of plainly cooked noodles goes for an exorbitant 60 yuan at some airport dining spots.

 

Some vendors claim the higher prices are the result of high operational cost, but critics contend the charges are far from reasonable. "It's unfair competition," Zhang said.

 

Huang Haibo, a business traveler, said he seldom buys food at the airports, because the price is "very unreasonable."

 

Food supply did improve in both price and diversity when the new terminal opened at the Pudong airport in March last year.

 

The airport authority said it will push to bring more food chains to Hongqiao Airport and achieve a major decrease in food prices "soon."

 

Several chain restaurants, including KFC, McDonald's and Burger King, have opened airport branches.

 

(Shanghai Daily April 2, 2009)