China's epic flight delays -- caused by managerial snafus, overcrowded airspace, and air traffic controls shortcomings -- have sparked protests and fist fights, and forced airlines to offer combat training to their embattled employees. The nation's major airports have the worst delays in the world, more than half of flights from provincial airports fail to take off on time, and the situation has gotten much worse in the last six months.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China has vowed to solve the problem, and this week unveiled its response: Command planes at China's eight busiest airports to take off as soon as passengers are on board, whether there's a place for them to land or not.
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The new policy, called "unrestricted take off," has already improved on-time takeoffs at Beijing Capital Airport. But it's causing a a cascade of new woes: Planes are forced to circle their destinations for hours waiting for a runway slot to open up, burning increasingly costly fuel, placing further stress on an overstretched air traffic control system and potentially putting passengers at risk.