Air China starts di­rect route be­tween Bei­jing and Barcelona

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By XIN DINGDING in Vi­enna xind­ingding@ chi­

Air China Ltd opened a new Bei­jing-Vi­enna-Barcelona route on Mon­day, the lat­est in­dus­try move cater­ing to in­creased cul­tural ex­changes be­tween China and Europe. AnAir­busA330-300 will fly the route— Air China’s 23rd to Europe where it now has 19 city des­ti­na­tions— four times a week. It will be the first di­rect flight from Bei­jing to Barcelona.

Wang Yingpo from the Bei­jing-based Caissa travel ser­vice leads groups on trips to Spain. They used to have to trans­fer in Dubai or Hong Kong, and the new ser­vice will save four to five hours’ travel time, he said on Mon­day.

Air China will open a new Shang­hai-to-Mu­nich route on June 6. The flag car­rier opened di­rect flights be­tween Bei­jing and Geneva last year. China South­ern said last month it will start a Guangzhou- Chang­sha-

As more Chi­nese tourists ex­pand their ex­plo­ration des­ti­na­tions, air­lines will next con­sider open­ing new ser­vices to East­ern Europe.” WANG YINGPO TOURIST GUIDE

Frankfurt ser­vice this year.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG also said it will add an additional daily flight be­tween Shang­hai and Frankfurt, served by a Boe­ing 747-400 from Fri­day.

The Ger­man air­line put an Air­bus A380 on the Shang­hai-Frankfurt route and made it a daily ser­vice last year. Air France-KLM Group has also ex­panded its Shang­hai-Paris route, with an Air­bus A380.

The In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion fore­casts de­mand for in­ter­na­tional air pas­sen­ger trans­port will rise 4.7 per­cent in Europe this year. The con­ti­nent is an im­por­tant mar­ket for Chi­nese car­ri­ers search­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, He Zhi­gang, the head of Air China’s mar­ket­ing, said.

The num­ber of Chi­nese tourists head­ing to Europe has grown by dou­ble dig­its in the past decade, he said. Air China op­er­ated a di­rect flight be­tween Bei­jing and Vi­enna 22 years ago, but stopped af­ter two years’ oper­a­tion be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient de­mand, he said.

Things are dif­fer­ent now. More than 400,000 Chi­nese vis­ited Aus­tria last year, Ju­lian Jaeger, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Vi­enna In­ter­na­tional Air­port, said at a cer­e­mony mark­ing the open­ing of the new ser­vice to the Aus­trian cap­i­tal on Tues­day.

Mon­day’s first Bei­jing-Vi­en­naflight car­ried at least two Chi­nese tour groups headed for Spain.

Caissa travel ser­vice’s Wang, in the in­dus­try for 10 years, said he saw Europe turn from a niche des­ti­na­tion for people such as China’s nou­veau riche, to one that many from the coun­try can now af­ford to visit.

“I can­not give you an ex­act num­ber. But in the past decade the num­ber of tour guides hired by our com­pany to lead tour groups to Europe in­creased, but the work­load of each of us has not been re­duced,” Wang said.

He said the ris­ing num­ber of tourists to Europe is partly due to more Chi­nese “long­ing to visit places with rich cul­ture and arts.

“As more Chi­nese tourists ex­pand their ex­plo­ration des­ti­na­tions, air­lines will next con­sider open­ing new ser­vices to East­ern Europe”, he said.

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