Nonstop route links Chengdu and San Francisco

Updated: 2014-06-12 01:45

By Li Yu and Peng Chao in Chengdu (China Daily)

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Nonstop route links Chengdu and San Francisco

Passengers on the maiden flight of the Chengdu-San Francisco nonstop route arrives at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport on Tuesday evening. Provided to China Daily 

United service realigns interior air options

With a landing in San Francisco on Wednesday, United Airlines has completed its maiden nonstop return flight from Chengdu.

The distance between the United States and Chengdu, a regional hub in southwestern China, has been shortened to 14 hours for travelers using the new United nonstop service from San Francisco to Chengdu .

United offers three flights to Chengdu every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from Chengdu every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Operated by a Boeing 787-8, the maiden flight from San Francisco carried 219 passengers and arrived at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport on Tuesday evening.

Jake Cefolia, United's vice president of Atlantic and Pacific Sales, who was among the passengers, said he was very excited about the opening of the direct route because Chengdu is a city with unique attractions.

"We have been evaluating it for over five years, and we finally picked it out from so many competing cities because of its rich business opportunity and tourism resources," he said.

Cefolia said more than half of the Fortune 500 companies had made their presence in the city, many of which are partners of United and they asked for a nonstop route to Chengdu. United's research also shows that Chengdu is an access to a market of 200 million people.

The growing fascination of China to American people also increases the needs of a nonstop service. "Americans are becoming more interested in Chinese culture, history and food, and Chengdu is the right city to visit," Cefolia said.

The United States is attracting more Chinese as well. More than 1.8 million Chinese visited the US in 2013, a 23 percent rise over the previous year, according to the Consulate General of the United States in Chengdu.

Zeng Yunqi, a 60-year-old Chengdu native, said he and his wife had waited years for the direct flight. "We love travel abroad but we don't like connecting flights," he said. The couple was taking the return flight on Wednesday morning to visit America's most famous cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.

Walter Dias, the airlines' managing director for Greater China and Korea, said both the maiden flight and the return flight are full house, and the load factor of this new flight from June to August is expected to be the highest among the airline's 13 direct flights that links Greater China to the United States.

Chen Zhongwei, director of Chengdu's logistics office, said he didn't expect the direct route to be so popular. "United and us thought at the beginning that it may requires time for the market to grow, since Chengdu is a second-tier city in inland; but the result turned out unprecedentedly well," he said.

Chen took the return flight with other government officials to the United States to seek for chances with the United Airlines to add the frequency of the flight.

As China's four largest air hub, Chengdu has opened 33 international regular direct routes.

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