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Now fly Shenzen-Kolkata direct

May 9, 2011

Analysts have long used the scattered number of direct flights a week between India and China to lament the business potential that exists between the two mega emerging nations. So, in response to the +US$60 billion bilateral trade target being met ahead of schedule and the realistic US$1o0 billion target by 2015, Hainan Airlines, will start direct flights from Shenzen in Guangdong Province to Kolkata, the seat of India’s largest Chinatown. Vijay Mallya owned Kingfisher airlines is also looking at flying directly between Kolkata and Guangzhou (right now it flies the route via Bangkok and has a code sharing with China Southern Airlines). Although there is a lot of trade potential between India and China’s two major trading cities, currently there are no direct flights between the two cities.

“We will start our operations before June 30 with three flights a week from Calcutta to Shenzen, and based on the response, we are open to increasing the frequency,” Li Li, the general manager of the airline’s city office, told the Telegraph. Consequently, Hainan has also lined up a Shanghai-Shenzen-Mumbai flight, to operate thrice a week, from July, according to Hank Tu, the general manager of the airline’s Mumbai office.

The flight will leave Calcutta at 2.15 in the afternoon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and reach Shenzen at 8.25pm (local time). From Shenzen, the flight will leave on the same days at 11.40am (local time) and touch down in Calcutta at 1 in the afternoon.

Hainan, part of the $50-billion HNA Group of China, will operate a Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 160 seats, including eight business-class berths, offering an introductory fare of Rs 18,000 (all-inclusive) per passenger, with the option to fly free onwards from Shenzen to Beijing or Hangzhou (capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang).

Direct flight routes between China and India are scarce. While Air India, the national carrier directly connects Delhi with both Beijing and Shanghai, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai flights to all major Chinese cities are not direct. As a result, most traders, tourists and businessmen use Hong kong as a hub for entering or exiting China. Jet Airways had in the past operated direct flights from Shanghai to Mumbai, but however ran into financial trouble and had to cancel the route.

While options remain limited, businessmen and tourists are eager to cross the Himalayas to know more about their neighbors, trade too between the countries has skyrocketed in the past few years. Five times the number of Indian tourists visited China last year as compared to Chinese tourists to India. Incredible India is promoting buddhism and India’s beaches in China, while the mainland is hoping to attract Indians to business fairs and its beaches.

Flights between the two countries are expected to increase exponentially as trade further grows and ignorance between China and India dissolves. Here’s to hoping the silk route flies!

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