Following the recent United States federal approval United Airlines has launched the Beijing to Washington DC direct flight service. The first flight to Beijing from Washington DC flew in late March 2007.
Seven airlines now provide direct flights to the Chinese mainland from US cities. Four American airlines and three Chinese airlines service the US-China routes. When the new slot opened up Northwest airlines tried to break into the lucrative US-China market however the option it put forward which would have seen flights to Beijing from Detroit was rejected. United airlines put forward a case that highlighted the benefits of linking the two capitals.
It was with great excitement that the first direct flight to Beijing from the United States Capital was launched. Many seasoned travelers said this flight was long overdue. For Chinese families living in the Washington area and for many government officials and business people the flight servicing Beijing direct from Washington was welcome news.
The first-ever non-stop flight from Washington DC arrived at the Beijing Capital International Airport at 1:55 pm on March 29, 2007
Previously, many east coast travelers would fly to China through Chicago, which could present problems when bad weather caused delays. Some travelers would even miss connecting flights due to the bad weather that is common place in Chicago. The Chicago to Beijing direct flight has been operating since April 2001. United Airlines also operates this route.
As more and more Chinese benefit from the booming economy in that country Chinese nationals are taking the opportunity to travel to the United States. This has resulted in a well patronized US-China air routes attracting strong interest from the airlines.
When the new slot between the US and Beijing was opened up last year, airports and airlines waged a tough battle to secure the prized new route.
Ma Kezheng, a former diplomat who has previously lived in Washington, said it was the right decision and will bring the two capitals closer together culturally. He was surprised it took this long to open the route.
"I found it difficult to travel home to Beijing from Washington without the option of the direct flight," said Kezheng.
United Airlines are using a 347-seat Boeing 747-400 to service the route. The flight time to Beijing from the US capital is around 13 1/2-hours. In the past east coast travelers would normally have to fly via Chicago in order to get to and from the Chinese capital.
Special ceremonies were held at the airport in Washington prior to the departure of the inaugural flight to Beijing. One of the guests, Zheng Zeguang, a Chinese embassy minister, said the Beijing-Washington route increases the number of weekly flights servicing the two countries from 105 to 119.
Travelers are hopeful that even more flights will be added in the future as there is high demand for seats on a Beijing flight. The Chinese government is holding back further expansion of services to China as it tries to protect the domestic airlines from competition that would come if it allowed the market to open up further.
The Washington-Beijing route will make a strong market even stronger as more travelers will take to the skies.