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China's private airline resumes full operation

All 13 of the suspended domestic passenger flights of Okay Airways, China's first private airline, have resumed operation, the company announced Monday.


A 174-seat Boeing 737-800 took off at 7:50 a.m. from Tianjin, in north China, carrying 141 passengers. The plane landed at Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, at 9:40 a.m., said Li Wei, an officer with Okay's publicity section.


The last flight to resume will take off Tuesday morning from Tianjin to Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province in southwest China. About 73 percent of the tickets of the upcoming flight were sold and safety and logistic measures have been prepared, according to Li.


Okay Airways suspended passenger services on Dec. 6 last year, nine days ahead of the deadline for suspension set by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).


The suspension order came after some airports, worried about the airline's financial troubles, would only refuel its planes for cash. More than 2,000 passengers were stranded at the airline's base in the northern city of Tianjin and at other airports and had to be transferred to other flights.


Management problems and a lack of capital support from Junyao Group, Okay Airways' main shareholder based in Shanghai, had been cited as factors in the suspension.


Nine flights resumed service on Jan. 24, a day after the CAAC issued a permit, leaving four other flights to be resumed during the second stage of Feb. 1 to Feb. 17.


The resumed routes reported an average ticket sale of 70 percent, equivalent to the flights operated by other companies.


Okay's flights linking Tianjin to Sanya and Haikou, two tourist destinations in Hainan Island, registered full sales.


Okay Airways became China's first private carrier in 2005. Junyao Group, through the Beijing Transport Energy Shareholding Co., owns 63 percent of the airline.


The company, based in Tianjin, has 11 aircraft. Okay Airways' cargo service has been operating as scheduled.


Junyao's board chairman Wang Junjin pledged to introduce new strategic partners this year, and pursue high-quality and low-cost services in an effort to turn economic loss into profit.


(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2009)