Direct flights to China coming soon

January 15, 2013 5:18:50 PM PST
The city of Houston is now getting a direct connection to the far east. Air China airlines has announced a non-stop flight between Houston and Beijing, China. It is expected to increase the business flow between the two cities.

This could bring a number of new jobs as well as a big improvement to Houston's bottom line. If all goes as planned, Terminal D at Bush Intercontinental Airport will be the home for Air China starting in mid-July.

It had all the trappings of a boisterous Chinese wedding and it is a marriage of sorts between Houston's growing economy and Air China's growing footprint in America.

"Houston will become the first-ever destination," said Dr. Zhihang Chi, vice president of Air China.

Air China hasn't expanded in the U.S. for three decades. After much wooing, the airline chose Houston as its suitor, bringing with it four daily flights and additional local jobs starting this July.

"Is a testament to the strength of our local economy, but it's also a testament to Houston as a gateway to the heartland," Mayor Annise Parker said.

Parker says the city has pursued direct flights to Houston not just from China, but from a number of international cities, knowing each direct flight helps entice business travelers like Kathy Kanocz to choose our city over regional rivals such as Dallas and Atlanta.

"Anytime you get a new airline in, that's going to go directly somewhere, it's going to increase everything in Houston, people are going to want a direct flight to anywhere," Kanocz said.

Frequent China travelers have waited years for the direct flight.

"I'm so excited, so now I can fly to Beijing directly from Houston, I don't have to go to another city," Rice University Ambassador Ping Sun said.

But they'll have to wait a bit longer. The U.S. Department of Transportation still needs to give the flight an official OK.

"We have an application pending with the DOT, and the moment they approve that, we'll start selling," Chi said.

The DOT is expected to approve that application in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the city says it's trying to add more direct flights to other international destinations.

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