LHASA-BASED Tibet Airlines is due to start operations on July 20 according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which will grant the airline its own Air Operating Certificate shortly before this date. The new carrier has a registered capital of CNY280 million ($43.2 million) in which the Tibet Autonomous Region Investment Company holds a 51% stake, Tibet Sanli Investment Co owns a 39% stake and Tibet Ruiyi Investment Co holds the remaining 10%. Tibet Air signed a contract for three 128-seat Airbus A319s on August 19, 2010, and these will be configured in a two-class layout, with eight First Class seats and 120 Economy seats. Its first A319 was scheduled to be delivered on July 7, 2011 and will be used to launch flights between Lhasa and Beijing. The arrival of the other two A319s in August and September will enable the carrier to expand its services on routes within the region and to major destinations across China. Providing its launch goes smoothly, Tibet Air has ambitious plans to increase its network and acquire another 17 aircraft over the next five years.