PHOTO: Edinburgh Airport.

LONDON — Hainan Airlines inaugurated the first-ever direct flights between Scotland and China today with HU749, the first service between Beijing and Edinburgh. The four weekly flights to the Scottish capital is the country’s first connection to the Far-East.

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Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport said: “This is a momentous day as we connect not only Edinburgh and Beijing for the first time, but Scotland and China too. It is a route which has immense opportunities for our countries, from tourism and business to culture, education and more. We know Edinburgh is second only to London for Chinese tourists and we are eager to welcome more people to our fantastic capital city, but it’s also about connecting people from Scotland to Beijing and wider China thanks to Hainan’s hub network. Hainan is one of the world’s most prestigious airlines and we are proud to be working with them. This is something the city has worked towards for a number of years and we are delighted to see this day finally arrive.”

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Minister for Business, Innovation, and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “Securing direct links between Scotland and China is one of our key priorities for route development. This new direct Beijing-Edinburgh route is an exciting first chapter indirect air connectivity between Scotland and China. It will enable China and Scotland to become closer in partnership and in travel time, building upon existing strong links for business and tourism. The Scottish Government and our agencies look forward to working with Hainan Airlines and Edinburgh Airport to make this route a great success.”

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Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “This first direct service from China to Edinburgh represents a gear change for Scottish tourism and further cement Scotland’s reputation as a world-class destination. As the Chinese market has grown over the years so too has the Scottish capital’s popularity with Chinese visitors and it continues to be the top destination outside of London. Through our ongoing work with key Chinese tour operators, we have seen visitor itineraries extending over the years. Bringing visitors from China directly into the heart of Scotland will create greater opportunities for tourism businesses right across the country, as visitors stay longer and explore further.”

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Paul Lewis, managing director of Scottish Development International said: We’re working hard to ensure that more Scottish companies can take advantage of trade and investment opportunities in China, while at the same time trying to attract more Chinese companies to base their European operations here. A direct air route is a significant enabler of both these goals and we welcome Hainan Airlines’ first ever route between Edinburgh Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport.”

The flight currently includes a stopover in Dublin after its arrival in Edinburgh due to excessive demand interest at that airport for Chinese flight. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, the aircraft will arrive into Edinburgh at 0600 and will then depart at 0800 to Dublin, to which it will carry on to Beijing after departure from Dublin. On Thursdays and Sundays, the flight arrives into Edinburgh from Dublin at 0910 before departing for Beijing at 1110.

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Continued UK Expansion

PHOTO: Edinburgh Airport.

This flight continues the carrier’s continued expansion out of the UK, having launched their first Manchester route over two years ago this month. As the carrier is slowly receiving the licensing from the CAAC (Civil Aviation Administration of China), it is becoming a little clearer into where the carrier wants to start their expansion.

With services from Capital Airlines out of Gatwick being operated on already, they are starting to cover all areas of the UK. The other airports of interest could potentially be those such as Glasgow, Birmingham and potentially Stansted if the demand appeals to HNA.

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In terms of investment, the carrier is definitely putting money into the route developments they establish. This comes following the news that the HNA board are looking to raise over $1 billion in capital to fund certain elements of the airline, placing worries into the security of these routes in case the airline has to downsize.

However, Hainan seem to be playing the UK market very strongly and are slowly, one by one, opening up China to most of the UK and beyond, especially with the Dublin connection point, where they can capture some of the Irish catchment areas on top of this, thus boosting their presence into Europe as well.