Hainan Airlines has confirmed new flights between Dublin and Beijing, with a service from Dublin Airport set for take-off on June 12.
Hainan, China’s largest independent airline, will fly the route four times a week using an Airbus A330-300 aircraft, it says.
Not all of the flights are direct. While two services per week are non-stop, the other two will operate with a stopover in Edinburgh.
The route had been flagged for some time, but was formally announced at the Irish Embassy in Beijing at a reception attended by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and representatives from Dublin Airport, Hainan, Beijing Airport and Tourism Ireland.
An Tánaiste described the route as “a major achievement, which will prove transformational to the bilateral relationship between China and Ireland.”
It follows the announcement of direct flights with Cathay Pacific from Dublin to Hong Kong – a four-times weekly service set for take-off on June 2.
Tickets for the service will go on sale shortly. Prices have not been announced, but a similar route from Manchester starts from around £382/€430 each-way in June.
A ‘major game-changer’ for tourism
Direct flights to China, with the enormous business and tourism potential they bring, have been in the works for years. Government departments, State agencies, daa, Tourism Ireland and others have worked in tandem to get them over the line.
Two-way trade between Ireland and China is estimated to be worth more than €14.9 billion per year, according to a statement by daa, with about 120,000 Irish passengers estimated to have travelled between the counties last year.
“We look forward to welcoming many more Chinese visitors to Ireland with this new service in the months and years to come,” said Dublin Airport’s Managing Director, Vincent Harrison.
China is also the world’s largest outbound tourism market, with Tourism Ireland estimating some 70,000 Chinese visitors to Ireland last year.
“Today’s announcement is excellent news for Irish tourism in 2018 and beyond,” said Niall Gibbons, its CEO. The marketing organisation has been seeking to diversify inbound visitor markets in the wake of Brexit.
The flights will be “a major game-changer” for Chinese visitors, Gibbons said.
He added that the British-Irish Visa Scheme allows Chinese travellers to visit both Ireland and the UK on a single visa of either country.
Hainan Airlines is part of the Chinese-based global HNA Group, which also owns the Dublin-based aircraft leasing business Avolon. It carried almost 72 million passengers to 110 destinations last year on a fleet of 300 aircraft.