China to launch direct flights from Beijing to Naha four times a week
July 16, 2011 Sakae Toiyama of Ryukyu Shimpo
With the introduction of multiple-entry visas for Chinese tourists, the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Hirokazu Nakaima, and a support group visited Beijing on July 15 to carry out a public relations campaign for Okinawa tourism. They called at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the National Tourism Administration, China’s leading airline companies, including Air China and Hainan Airlines, to promote the appeal of Okinawa, and requested an increase in the number of flights.
Air China, the largest airline in the country indicated that it had made application at the end of June to the authorities for twice weekly flights between Beijing and Naha. It will commence this service within the year at the earliest. China will launch non-stop flights from Beijing to Naha four times a week, adding the Air China service to the twice-weekly flights by Hainan Airlines that will start on July 28. The extended services by these leading Chinese companies are likely to help attract Chinese tourists to Okinawa.
Air China, which has about 40% of the landing and take-off rights at Beijing Airport in addition to being the largest national airline in the country, expects to be permitted to commence the new services.
Shi Zengqi, vice Chairman for Air China responsible for the sales stated, “Okinawa will be our seventh base of operations in Japan. We will flesh out our network within Japan through the route to Okinawa.” With regard to the timing of the start of its service, he said, “I am not sure, but we want to fly as soon as possible once we get permission from the government.” He suggested that it had dispatched its employees to study in Okinawa, and was preparing for the implementation of the service.
In that context, he has asked Governor Nakaima for assistance from the Okinawa Prefectural Government with regard to advertizing. The Governor responded, saying “Tell us what you need.”
Meanwhile, Hainan Airlines, the fourth-largest in China, has stated that it wants to go beyond two flights a week in future. The company asked the Governor to lighten the burden of landing fees and airport facilities fees. The Governor said that the OPG will carry out a study on potential supportive measures, including opening an office in Beijing.
(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey）
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