China Southern's new NYC flight 'a gift'

Updated: 2014-08-07 11:01

By Amy He and Liu Zheng in New York (China Daily USA)

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China Southern Airlines' new non-stop service between New York and Guangzhou is a lot more than just a top-flight connection between two of the world's great cities.

"We want to present the new service as an anniversary gift," said China Southern Airlines chairman Si Xianmin, referring to the 35th anniversary of the establishment of China-US diplomatic relations.

China Southern's first direct Guangzhou-New York flight arrived early Wednesday morning with a delegation from China aboard, including Si, and China Southern executive vice-president Chen Gang and assistant president Li Jun.

 China Southern's new NYC flight 'a gift'

Jeff Hofgard (left), vice-president of International Operations and Policy for Boeing Government Operations, shakes hands with Chairman of China Southern Airlines Si Xianmin after the presentation of a gift at the China Southern Airlines Gala Dinner in New York on Wednesday. The event was held at the Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Hu Haidan / China Daily

"Although this is not the first time we've worked with China Southern Airlines at the airport, this is a very significant, important and exciting event for us," said Gert-Jan de Graaff, president and CEO of JFKIAT, LLC, the operator of JFK's Terminal 4, where the inaugural flight arrived on Wednesday. China Southern's new NYC flight 'a gift'

"With over a million Chinese living and working in New York city, and approximately 650,000 Chinese visiting our city every year, this new direct route from Guangzhou will strengthen the relationship among our two regions by increasing opportunities for tourism and communication," added de Graaff.

At the welcoming ceremony after the flight's arrival at the JFK International Airport, Si said: "Growing economic and people-to-people exchanges between the US and China have created a great platform for China Southern Airlines to launch the new service."

China Southern's new NYC flight 'a gift'

"As the largest city in the United States, New York is truly the capital of the world," Si said. "It is the world center of finance, trade, science, information technology and has no equal. Guangzhou is the third largest city in China and the political, economic, scientific and cultural center of southern China."

This is the first-ever non-stop service between the two cities, connecting the Big Apple to China's biggest manufacturing and commercial hub. Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, is the third-largest city in China after Beijing and Shanghai, with a population of 11 million. The city's economy is vital to the country, with the local economy growing 11.6 percent year-on-year in 2013, reaching $253.8 billion.

Cheng Lei, acting consul general of the Chinese Consulate General in New York, congratulated the airlines on the new route, saying that tourism can play a major role in establishing bilateral relations.

"Tourists are not tourists, they are people, ambassadors between our two countries," he said. "I do hope my brothers and sisters come from Guangzhou. China will not only spend more in New York City and its surroundings, but also learn more from the city and from the United States."

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also announced a marketing partnership with China Southern to promote tourism to New York State, saying that collaborating with Asia's biggest airline will make the city more accessible to the Chinese market.

"By partnering with China Southern Airlines, I LOVE NEW YORK is taking a giant step forward to promote the best place in the world to travel: New York State," said the governor in a statement. I LOVE NEW YORK is the state's global tourism initiative and it expanded its promotional efforts into China in June.

The airline hosted a seminar to introduce the direct flight to travel agents and held a gala reception at New York City's iconic Plaza Hotel.

China Southern's new NYC flight 'a gift'

China Southern is based in Guangzhou, operating at the Baiyun International Airport. It is one of the largest airlines in the world by number of passengers carried. The airline carried more than 90 million passengers last year, according to the company.

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Yuwei Zhang contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 08/07/2014 page1)