United goes direct to Chengdu
Updated: 2014-06-10 11:18
By Chang Jun in San Francisco (China Daily USA)
San Francisco-Chengdu nonstop service using Boeing Dreamliner
United Airlines on Monday launched its new nonstop service linking the airline's San Francisco hub with Chengdu, China's fourth-largest city.
With this ambitious move to provide service to China's vast interior, United also becomes the first carrier to fly nonstop from the US to the Chinese mainland beyond Beijing and Shanghai.
About 219 passengers were on the maiden flight which took off from San Francisco International Airport. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Yuan Nansheng, the Chinese consul general in San Francisco, and United senior management participated in a festive sendoff that included traditional facing off in Sichuan Opera with backdrops showing giant pandas munching on bamboo roots.
The first group of passengers on Monday's flight included Jan Berris, vice-president of National Committee on US-China Relations; Kevin Foley, associate director at the John L. Thornton China Center with the Brookings Institution; and Anita Lee, the wife of the San Francisco mayor.
United uses the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to operate the three-times-weekly service which is scheduled to depart San Francisco on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and arrive at Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport the following day. Chengdu is the ninth destination United serves in the Asia Pacific region nonstop from San Francisco.
Passengers of Untied 9 will receive free domestic transfer in China thanks to United's partnership with their bilateral business partner, Air China. Both as Star Alliance members, the two airlines will work together to shift passengers to 62 cities on Air China's routes from Chengdu, said Dave Hilfman, United's senior vice-president of worldwide sales.
China remains one of the most important markets for United, said Hilfman. "It's fast-growing, dynamic and vibrant," he added.
Noting that nearly 800,000 Chinese Americans live in the San Francisco area, Yuan said: "I believe this new service will greatly promote tourism, trade, investment, education and culture."
In 2013, more than 1.8 million Chinese visited the US, a 23 percent increase over the previous year, and they spent about $9.8 billion, said Yuan, adding that it's the perfect time for United to fly directly between the two cities.
Mayor Lee said the new service to Chengdu will become a two-way street connecting people from China who want to invest in San Francisco and also offering the Bay Area's bio-tech and high-tech companies the opportunity to do business in China.
"Chengdu is a great historic city not only because of its giant panda, famous cuisine, art and culture," Lee said.
With a population of about 14 million and as home to the giant panda and Sichuan cuisine, the capital city of Sichuan province has become one of China's fastest-developing areas. More than half of the Fortune 500 companies have a presence in the city.
Chengdu has experienced rapid growth in recent years led by investments in five development zones along major rivers, roads and railways. In addition to Chengdu, China has targeted the interior cities of Chongqing, Xi'an, Kunming, Nanning and Guiyang for increased economic development under the country's 12th Five-Year Plan.
United is the largest and busiest carrier at San Francisco International Airport with nearly 300 daily flights to more than 90 domestic and international destinations.
United Airlines announces its first nonstop flight to the Chinese interior city of Chengdu, Sichuan province on Monday at the San Francisco International Airport with a gate celebration. Joined on the podium are, from left: Mike Hanna, United's vice-president at the San Francisco Hub; San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee; Chinese Counsel General in San Francisco Yuan Nansheng; Ivar Satero, chief operating officer of the San Francisco International Airport; Dave Hilfman, United's senior vice-president of worldwide sales, and an unidentified performer of traditional Sichuan Opera. Chang Jun / China Daily
(China Daily USA 06/10/2014 page1)