New flights to connect second highest airport in Tibet
China on Tuesday announced that a new flight route was being launched to strengthen connectivity between the world's second highest airport in the remote Tibetan town of Qamdo, one of the Chinese airports located close to Arunachal Pradesh, with the rest of the country.
This announcement comes within a week of the government extending the world's highest Qinghai-Tibet railway to Xigaze, the hometown of the Beijing-backed Panchen Lama, located close to the Indian border in Sikkim.
A state media report said the new flight route between Bangda airport in Qamdo and the city of Chongqing in southwest China will stimulate the local economy.
"Tibet Airlines will operate at least three round-trip flights a week using its Airbus 319 from Bangda Airport in Qamdo, according to an agreement between the company and Qamdo prefectural administrative authorities," official news agency, Xinhua, said in a report on Tuesday.
Currently, it has flights to Lhasa and Chengdu.
The report said that though Qamdo was a trade hub in the eastern part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TA), rugged and steep terrain was hampering development.
"Transportation had become a bottleneck for the development of Qamdo and improved traffic is a basic foundation for local development," said Abo, government chief of Qamdo Prefecture.
Development of Qamdo's waterpower and mineral resources as well as infrastructure construction lured a large number of people working here and all these need a convenient traffic, said Abo.
The airport, which is 4,334 meters above sea level, is the second highest-altitude civilian airport in the world after Daocheng Yading Airport in neighbouring Sichuan, which opened in 2013.
Xinhua reported that the Daocheng Yading Airport, located in Daocheng County, Garzi, Tibet cut the traffic time between the county and the provincial capital of Chengdu from two days by bus to 65 minutes by plane.
The Daocheng airport built at a cost of 1.58 billion Yuan ($258 million) is designed to handle 280,000 passengers a year. It has helped open up the nearby Yading Nature Reserve to tourism, Xinhua added.
The new route for Qamdo is been seen as China's long-term goal to connect its remote parts to the rest of the country thereby increasing tourism and travel to the area by people from other provinces.
Garzi, for one, has seen number of self-immolation by Tibetans protesting against Beijing's hardline rule and demanding the exiled Dalai Lama's return to China.