With an increased demand for European travel, Air China introduced the first flight from Beijing-Vienna-Barcelona this week. The flight— which will run four times a week courtesy of the company’s A330-300 Airbus—saw two Chinese tour groups on its inaugural journey.
The International Air Transport Association predicts that the market for international air travel to Europe will increase 4.7 percent this year. Part of this growth is due solely to Chinese travelers. He Zhigang, the head of Air China’s marketing, told China Daily that Chinese vacationers in Europe have doubled in the last ten years alone.
Wang Yingpo, of Beijing-based Caissa Travel Service, said that Air China’s new flight will save travelers a significant amount of time. While previous transfer flights connected in Dubai or Hong Kong, the new route will cut four to five hours of travel time by stopping in Vienna.
The Beijing-Vienna-Barcelona flight is just one of the new China-Europe routes being offered. Air China will also introduce a Shanghai-Munich flight on June 6. The airline currently has twenty-three different weekly flights to nineteen European destinations including Geneva which was launched last year.
Other airlines are also expanding the number of European flights they offer. Lufthansa is adding daily flights from Shanghai to Frankfurt and Air France is offering additional flights between Shanghai and Paris.
Caissa Travel’s Wang Yingpo said that increased travel to Europe is reflective of Chinese interest in places rich in culture and art. While European travel was once reserved for the wealthy, such destinations are now accessible for middle-class vacationers as well.
Yingpo is convinced that European travel will continue to grow in popularity and that the travel industry will keep up with the demand. “As more Chinese tourists expand their exploration destinations, airlines will next consider opening new services to Eastern Europe.”
image credit: aero icarus