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As the latest domestic carrier adopting the digital renminbi recently, Xiamen Airlines has charted more plans to expand such services in air travel-related scenarios.

Earlier this month, Xiamen Airlines allowed ticket purchases using the digital RMB via its official website. For passengers living in cities that have already started trial operations of the digital RMB, the deal can be made through a few banks, including Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China.

When put into full application, the service will be available for all passengers to buy tickets and other related products and services, the carrier said.

"Digital RMB is particularly suitable for passengers to make onboard payments, especially when there is no Wi-Fi available during a flight. Digital currency can support offline payments and satisfy the consumption demand of passengers. They can also use digital RMB to buy duty-free products onboard," said Gao Gui, manager of the e-commerce planning office of the digital marketing department at Xiamen Airlines.

"The application of digital RMB will help further promote Xiamen Airlines' cabin service marketing and open a brand-new business model. With its real-time settlement, digital RMB bears a broad application prospect in the air travel market," Gao said.

The People's Bank of China, the central bank, is the issuer of the digital RMB, being the core responsible for inter-institutional connection and management of the digital payment system, which the PBOC said is key to preventing illegal activities related to the digital currency and helping expand its role to more application scenarios in the future.

The trial adoption of digital RMB in China started in 2019 in the Xiong'an New Area, Hebei province; Shenzhen, Guangdong province; Suzhou, Jiangsu province; Chengdu, Sichuan province, as well as some venues of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. In late 2020, an additional six areas in the country began trials.

In addition, despite the unprecedented negative impact of COVID-19 on the civil aviation market, Xiamen Airlines became the only medium- and large-scale airline worldwide to achieve a whole-year overall profit.

The company also became the sole carrier globally that has been able to remain profitable for 34 consecutive years, as it adopted various innovative measures in sales and marketing.

For instance, the carrier started to allow economy class passengers to choose a variety of complimentary food and drinks onboard this year, making their journeys more relaxing.

Meanwhile, Shanghai-based Chinese budget carrier Spring Airlines became the first domestic airline in April to allow passengers to use digital RMB to buy flight tickets, marking the official launch of digital RMB in the civil aviation sector in China.

"As the first domestic carrier that accepted digital RMB for payment, Spring Airlines will further explore its diversified applications in different scenarios, including in online consumption payments, onboard offline payments, and paying by scanning QR codes," said Zhang Wu'an, vice-president of Spring Airlines.

The carrier said it plans to undergo trial operations at three airports in China soon, and allow passengers to pay for luggage check-in services and upgrade seats at terminals by digital RMB.

The three airports are Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shijiazhuang Zhengding International Airport in Hebei province, Spring Airlines said.

"The use of digital RMB is expected to be applied in more scenarios. When there is no Wi-Fi available during a flight, it will be quite convenient to use digital RMB for offline payments to purchase food, duty-free products, plane models and movies," said Lin Zhijie, an aviation industry analyst and a columnist at Carnoc, one of the largest civil aviation websites in China.

"This is a function that digital payment options like Alipay and WeChat Pay won't support, as they require the availability of the internet," Lin said.

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