The privately-owned Hainan Airlines completed an inaugural flight to Tibet on Wednesday morning, establishing itself as a player in a market once monoplized by four state-owned airlines.
The Haikou-based airlines' Flight HU7854 landed on Lhasa's Gonggar Airport on 10:40 a.m. Wednesday after a 2-hour flight from northwest China's Xi'an.
The 137 passengers on the inaugural flight not only received iconic Tibetan welcomes featuring butter tea and Hada, but enjoyed discounted tickets, a rarities on flights to the mountain-locked Himalayan region.
Expensive air tickets has been one of the main reasons that hamper Tibet's tourism. With the coming of a new airline company and more market competition, the price may go down, said Zhao Shujuan with the region's tourism bureau.
But the executive president of Hainan Airlines Zhao Zhongying was more conservative.
"Whether or not to offer discounted tickets is a business strategy. As a listed firm which has made profits for 13 consecutive years, Hainan Airlines can't guarantee each ticket to be sold at a discount," Zhao said. "It depends on the market after all."
According to a survey done by Tibet's tourism bodies, 85 percent of the mid and low income citizens from elsewhere in China have plans to travel to Tibet, but most of them give up because of expensive flights.