China's civil aviation sector has strengthened cooperation with Central Asian nations, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.
Last month, regular scheduled flights began operating between Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, and Astana, capital of Kazakhstan. The flight, operated by Air China, runs every Monday and Friday.
From January — when China downgraded its COVID-19 management measures — to this month, the number of flights between Central Asian countries and Xi'an has greatly increased, said Sun Wensheng, deputy head of the CAAC's general department.
According to Sun, the CAAC and the five Central Asian countries are discussing and preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop an "Air Silk Road".They are also working together to create regulations and improve the quality and efficiency of their cooperation in the civil aviation field.
The CAAC is encouraging airlines to open and add more flights between China and Central Asia. Currently, 10 airlines are operating flights between the two regions.
Cooperation has been promoted in the infrastructure development between the two sides, mainly focusing on airport construction and export projects involving civil aviation products and equipment. There are 17 projects involving building new airports and airport expansion.
Cooperation will be promoted in developing civil aviation technology, according to the CAAC.
"Central Asia is known as the heart of Asia and is key for the Belt and Road Initiative. China has great potential and broad prospects for cooperation in various fields in this region," Sun said.
"The CAAC is playing a strategic supporting role, serving as a bridge in economic, trade and cultural exchanges, and it actively promotes cooperation and exchanges with the five Central Asian countries."
China's civil aviation sector was badly hit by the COVID-19 epidemic. However, the sector is recovering from the virus, with the number of flights returning to about 96 percent of their level before the pandemic began, Li Yong, deputy director of the administration's safety office, told a news conference in Beijing.
Last month, the sector handled 50.2 million passenger trips, a year-on-year increase of 94.6 percent, with the volume of domestic passenger trips increasing by 3.4 percent compared to 2019, he said.
The amount of cargo and mail handled by the civil aviation sector remained stable, registering 545,000 metric tons last month, a year-on-year increase of 29.5 percent.