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China’s HNA to Double Computer Tablets to Soothe Delayed Fliers

HNA Group Co., parent of China’s Hainan Airlines Co., plans to double computer tablets available on flights to 20,000 this year to help lure passengers amid flight delays and competition with high-speed rail.

“The tablets are very popular among passengers, especially when they are stuck in cabins and waiting for planes to take off,” Pan Yunbin, general manager of HNA’s air-technology unit, said by phone. “Flight attendants say the tablets helped them to comfort passengers during delays.”

The 7.85-inch tablets, the same size as Apple Inc.’s iPad mini, provide entertainment and information for passengers on HNA Group company planes, about 90 percent of which lack video screen entertainment systems, Pan said. Chinese carriers are improving entertainment systems and promotions amid intensified competition with high-speed trains linking Beijing and Guangzhou that started operation last year.

Spring Airlines Co., a Shanghai-based budget carrier, said in April it would offer theme flights with flight attendants dressed up as French maids and butlers to draw passengers.

Air ticket prices in China have declined about 5 percent this year because of the competition and expansion of capacity by airlines, according to Patrick Xu, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Barclays Plc.

The flight delays also make bullet trains more appealing for travelers, he said. About one of four flights in China is delayed amid a surge in traffic and as only about 20 percent of airspace is alloted to civil aviation.

HNA is working to install inflight-wifi to better serve customers, the company said.

Scoot Pte, the long-haul budget air unit of Singapore Airlines, is also offering Apple Inc. iPads to travelers after ripping out aircraft entertainment systems weighing more than two tons to save fuel.

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