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Last Updated: Friday, 11 March, 2005, 06:25 GMT
China private airline airborne
By Louisa Lim
BBC News, Beijing

Two planes at Shanghai International airport, China
The new airline will bring the era of discount travel to China
China's first private airline has taken to the skies, ending the government monopoly on the rapidly growing civil aviation sector.

Okay Airlines made its maiden flight from Tianjin in north China to the central city of Changsha on Friday.

The company has benefited from Beijing's decision last month to expand opportunities for the private sector, opening up previously closed sectors.

Okay Airlines is also bringing the era of discount travel to China.

Okay airlines operates the Tianjin-Changsha route exclusively.

The airline is hoping to cash in on the boom in domestic air travel.

Passenger trips inside China were up by almost 40% last year to 120 million.

The figure is expected to grow as increasing numbers travel both for business and pleasure.

Three other private carriers are waiting in the wings to begin operations, all of them reportedly looking at low-cost travel.

There is a huge potential demand for discount flights but analysts have expressed doubts as to whether the aviation sector's liberalisation will be comprehensive enough to allow them to make a profit.


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