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China Eastern loses Xishuangbanna, Dali routes

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The regulatory fallout for China Eastern Airlines after an apparent organized act of protest by several of its Yunnan-based pilots in late March has finally hit the Shanghai-based carrier, which has been stripped of its Kunming-Xishuangbanna and Kunming-Dali routes, effective May 4, according to Kunming media reports.

The cancellation of the popular routes by aviation regulatory body the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) comes as a result of a rare public display of defiance by pilots on 21 flights last month. China Eastern Airlines had stated that pilots in its Yunnan subsidiary deliberately turned back midway through their provincial flights out of Kunming in late March – effectively going on strike in midair – with dissatisfaction with strict lifetime contracts and low pay both cited as reasons for the pilots' actions.

China Eastern released a statement in early April saying that two high-ranking officials in the company's Yunnan subsidiary had been fired and a deputy general manager from the company's Shanghai headquarters would serve as head of the branch.

In addition to the canceled Xishuangbanna and Dali feeder routes, CAAC reduced the number of flights China Eastern can fly from Kunming to Lijiang, Shangri-la, Mangshi, Lincang, Pu'er and Wenshan by 20 flights daily, effective April 26.

Details are unavailable regarding whether the routes will be available to other carriers or if China Eastern will later be eligible to service the routes again. Passengers who have purchased canceled flights are entitled to a full refund at China Eastern offices.

The cancellation of the Xishuangbanna and Dali routes comes as both regions prepare for an influx of summer and Olympics-related tourism.

Update: Bloomberg is reporting that Air China and three other carriers will receive the canceled routes beginning May 4.

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I'm certain that we've not heard the last of this 'tip of the iceburg'.

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