Air China starts direct route between Beijing and Barcelona
Updated: 2014-05-09 15:03
By Xin Dingding in Vienna (China Daily USA)
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.
An Airbus A330-300 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-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-Vienna-Barcelona flight 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.
Passengers land in Vienna from a new Air China route on Monday. The Beijing-Vienna-Barcelona route is the latest industry move catering to increased cultural exchanges between China and Europe. An Airbus A330-300 will fly the route - Air China's 23rd to Europe, where it now has 19 city destinations - four times a week. Zhang Yuwei / Xinhua
(China Daily USA 05/09/2014 page19)