A guard of honor gets ready for the welcoming ceremony for visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow, capital of Russia, March 22, 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow Friday for a state visit to Russia.[Photo: Xinhua]
The plane used by Chinese President Xi Jinping for his ongoing four-nation visit will, unknown to many, be shared by common passengers after the tour, a senior official has revealed.
Lu Peixin, former chief of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Protocol Department and former Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia, told regional newspaper the Legal Evening News that China has no specifically designed aircraft exclusive to state leaders, such as Air Force One in the United States, for the purpose of frugality.
Tuesday's edition of the the Legal Evening News quoted Lu as saying, "Unlike the presidential airplane in the United States, whose interior decoration is luxury hotel style, Chinese leaders' special plane refitting work is orientated around cost saving."
Lu called Xi's Boeing 747-400 a "guest performer" as such planes are refitted occasionally according to state leaders' itineraries as well as aviation industry rules.
Such high-level transport missions are carried out by Air China, a leading domestic commercial airline.
Since the 1980s, jumbo jets have flown national leaders on state visits, making full use of the jets' bulk size, long flight range and mature technology, said Lu, who has helped arrange state visits for former Chinese leaders including Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.
To help explain why China uses commercial airplanes, the ambassador cited Air China figures which show that an idled Boeing 747 can cause losses of up to 40,000 U.S. dollars daily.
More pertinently, the policy is more concerned with safety issues in that idled planes are prone to potential hazards and glitches.
Lu also detailed the preparation work on a special plane. He said personnel will be notified one month before departure to make refitting work and security checks on the plane, which means millions of parts of the plane have to be flawless.
"The layout needs to be changed for the convenience of high-level meetings and talks. Service from the crew members should be first class," according to Lu.
He further explained that the passenger cabin of such planes is divided into four sections. The front half is for the top leaders to work and rest, while the remaining three are for their entourage, mainly ministerial-level officials, security personnel and medical staff. 1 2