China’s booming with a 10 percent growth rate, but there’s one area of the economy that’s been put on hold: aviation. China’s airline sector is growing at 16 percent per year. New airlines are sprouting up, and demand is growing, especially in advance of the 2008 Olympics. The airline sector is growing faster, the main aviation authority CAAC says, than it can safely accommodate. Beijing’s main airport is too crowded, the air traffic control system cannot keep up with the growth, and there are too few qualified technical air traffic control personnel and pilots.
So CAAC is taking drastic measures: a ban on new airline start-ups until 2010 and massive capacity cuts at Beijing Capital Airport. These measures will certainly crimp the industry and drive up fares, as many new airlines are low-fare carriers. The Chinese situation is a more severe parallel of the U.S. situation, in which the government agency overseeing air safety cannot keep up with demand for growth. And so, in both China and the United States, government failure to keep up with their dynamic aviation markets has adverse consequences for travelers.