A third Chinese airline company, China Southern, will launch direct flights to India this year to tap the increasing traffic potential arising out of booming bilateral trade.
The company, based in Guangzhou, capital of the southern province of Guangdong, will connect the city with New Delhi, a senior company official said.
The flight to India is one among the 10 new international direct routes to be launched within 2007 by China Southern. Guangzhou city and Guangdong Province attracts a number of Indian traders. Moreover, the word-famous Canton Fair takes place in the city.
India will open a new Consulate in Guangzhou within the year, it was announced yesterday in Delhi after the meeting between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.
Some Indian carriers like Air Sahara have expressed interest to start flights to Guangzhou. Air China and China Eastern Airlines are the other two Chinese carriers that are operating direct flights to India.
In 2006, Sino-Indian trade grew by 33.87 per cent to $25.05 billion, crossing the $20 billion set for 2008 by the two governments in 2005.
"It is the first time for China Southern to launch so many international routes within a year," China Southern General Manager Si Xianmin said in Guangzhou.
"The new routes will be strategically important for our company to become an airline company with very dense international flights," Si was quoted as saying by China Daily.
The new routes to be launched will connect Guangzhou with Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Sendai and Sapporo in Japan, Kathmandu in Nepal, Delhi in India, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Phuket in Thailand, Yangon in Myanmar and Vientiane in Laos in Asia, as well as Luanda in Angola in Africa.
The new routes will help to fortify China Southern's position as a Chinese airline company with the densest airline network in Asia as well as China's only company operating direct flights to African countries.
Late last year, China Southern operated a flight to Lagos in Nigeria via the stopover of Dubai, which marked the only airline to Africa from the mainland.
After the planned expansion, it will have 182 international flights from Guangzhou per week as compared to 136 at present. Si said the company will put into operation another 68 aircraft this year, and its total number will reach 440 by the year 2010.