Sichuan capital, home of panda center, UNESCO gourmet mecca linked to Big Apple
China's Hainan Airlines has launched its first direct flights between New York City and the southwestern China cities of Chengdu and Chongqing.
As one of the world's top 10 air carriers, Hainan now offers more direct routes between North America and China than any other airlines.
Service to Chongqing commenced on Oct 21 and to Chengdu on Oct 27 from JFK. Each route operates twice weekly on Hainan Airline's fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
With a capacity of more than 60,000 passengers per year, it is the only non-stop service offered between New York City and China's rapidly growing southwest region.
The flying distance between Chongqing and NYC, which is 7,573 miles, is the farthest distance among all China-US direct flights on the Boeing 787.
"We are excited to be offering the only non-stop flights between the US East Coast and the major cities of Chongqing and Chengdu. These new services represent our 13th and 14th non-stop transpacific routes," said Sun Jianfeng, Hainan Airlines president.
Hainan Airlines has to date 12 routes connecting eight destinations from China to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle, San Jose, Chicago and Boston, and Toronto and Calgary in Canada.
Sun said the launch of the Chengdu-NYC and Chongqing-NYC routes will further optimize Hainan's North America network.
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is widely recognized for its Giant Panda Breeding Center. As the traditional home of Sichuan cuisine, the city is the latest stop on the global food trail. Chengdu is also Asia's first UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
Chongqing is a major commercial center of 30 million people, renowned for its distinctive spicy cuisine, and its busy port along the Yangtze River. Chongqing is the home of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Dazu Rock Carvings and Chinese religious sculptures and carvings dating back to the 7th Century.
According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, 2016 saw almost 3,000,000 Chinese visitors enter the US, an increase of 466 percent from 2009. Among them, more than 800,000 visited New York alone. The total travel and tourism exports for the year surpassed $32 billion.
"The opening of the new route is expected to improve both Chengdu and Chongqing's status on the global market and to significantly promote exchanges and collaborations in terms of culture, economy and politics." said Sun.
"The opportunity for us to connect New York with the fastest growing Chinese regional centers of Chengdu and Chongqing is expected to lead to additional trade opportunities throughout China and the US," said Adam Tan, CEO of HNA Group, Hainan Airline's parent company.
"We are continuing our expansion in the tourism and travel sectors globally, as we strive to build closer connections for world travelers," said Tan.
In conjunction with the new routes, HNA is sponsoring a concert at Lincoln Center on Oct 27 featuring the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Chinese violinist Lu Siqing.