URUMQI, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- A new airport was put into use Wednesday in the city of Tumxuk, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, bringing the total number of civil airports in the region to 21.
Currently, only one air route operates out of the new airport named Tangwangcheng. The new route, also launched Wednesday by the Xinjiang branch of China Southern Airlines, links the regional capital Urumqi with Tumxuk.
It was the first civil airport built in the southern part of Xinjiang by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an economic and semi-military organization.
Tumxuk neighbors the Taklimakan desert. Mainly relying on the road networks, its transport infrastructure has long been lagging behind.
Li Zhenguo, the city's Party chief, said Tumxuk is more than 1,200 km from Urumqi. The nearest airports, in the cities of Kashgar and Hotan, are 244 km and 336 km away respectively.
Li said the Tangwangcheng airport can promote the fast development of the economy, tourism, transport and logistics in south Xinjiang.
The airport's construction started in 2016, and it is now operated by the Xinjiang Airport Group. Around 15 km away from the downtown city, it can benefit more than one million people.
According to Fan Jinghua, deputy chief with Tumxuk airport construction headquarters, the airport is expected to handle an annual throughput of 80,000 passengers and 360 tonnes of cargo in 2020.
More air routes will be launched, linking Tumxuk with other Xinjiang cities such as Kashgar, Hotan and Korla.
Home to dozens of ethnic groups, Xinjiang occupies a sixth of China's territory. It presently has 21 civil airports, the most among provincial regions on the Chinese mainland.