United Continental Holdings Inc. will expand further into the heart of the Asian giant as they plan to connect more second-tier cities in China to the United States. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the stakes are getting higher for the airline company after it began serving travelers from San Francisco bound to the Chinese city of Xi’an using its Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliners fleet.
In July, the company plans to roll out service to Hangzhou in another bid to maximize their relatively small, 219-seater air buses, which are perfect for long-range flights. Apparently, United aims to establish itself further inside China, which is currently set to overtake the U.S. as the largest business-travel market in the world.
Why Flights to Xi’an Are Significant
In May, United made a significant step toward their target when they rolled out flights from the Asia-Pacific gateway in San Francisco to Xi’an. According to Financial News UK, these flights will be the first trans-Pacific service to the Chinese city, which is a popular destination for travelers seeking tourist spots and commerce in the central region of China.
The outlet noted that the move was wise considering that Xi’an has an over 8 million strong population and is situated strategically at the eastern end of the Silk Road. It is also a known destination for beauty-seekers since it is home to thousands of life-size hand-molded statues known as the Terracotta Warriors, who were buried with China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The thrice weekly service is set to run between May 8 and Oct. 27 this year.
“United operates more nonstop U.S.-China flights, and to more cities in China, than any other airline and we expect the addition of flights to Xi’an to continue to create opportunities for trade and collaboration between our two countries throughout the U.S.-China Tourism Year and long into the future,” United’s vice president of Atlantic and Pacific sales Marcel Fuchs told PR Newswire.
China as Top Travel Market
United’s goal is not without challenges as U.S.-Chinese aviation treaty minimizes flights to and from the country’s first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai where opportunities are bigger.
But United will not let that hinder them as they see China as a treasure trove of travelers to and from the U.S.
“It’s still a huge, hot economy. The middle class is really booming. And the secondary cities are the growth engine,” United’s vice president for Network Brian Znotins told WSJ.
The WSJ report cited a recent study conducted by the Global Business Travel Association indicating China’s potential in unseating the U.S. as the world’s biggest business travel market. According to the study, China’s international travel is steadily and strongly growing over time even though it only comprises 5 percent of the total local business.