Emirates superjumbo first in China

Airline to boost trade as it puts world's biggest passenger plane on daily route to Beijing

BEIJING // An Emirates Airline Airbus A380 yesterday became the first superjumbo to arrive in China on a scheduled service when it landed in bright sunshine at Beijing Capital International Airport. Its arrival heralds further strengthening of aviation ties between the UAE and the world's most populous nation.
An A380 will now fly one of Emirates's two daily services between Dubai and Beijing. It joins the route seven years after Emirates became the first airline to launch a non-stop service between the Middle East and the Chinese mainland. "This momentous touchdown of the world's largest aircraft not only reiterates Emirates's commitment to the development of the China market but also begins a new era for China's civil aviation," said Richard Jewsbury, Emirates's senior vice president, commercial operations, Far East and Australasia.
Mr Jewsbury said he hoped having the A380 on the route would further help to grow trade between the UAE and China. "We look forward to progressively growing our operations in China in the future," he said. Trade between the UAE and China was worth US$21 billion (Dh77.12bn) last year, making the UAE China's largest trading partner in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia. It peaked in 2008 at $28bn, with last year's dip blamed on the global economic slowdown.
Speaking in Shanghai earlier this year, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade, said bilateral trade was likely to pick up this year. Senior officials from major Chinese companies including the energy giant Sinopec, China Construction and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China travelled on yesterday's inaugural service to Beijing. The Emirates A380, configured for up to 517 passengers, is scheduled to depart from Dubai each day at 4.10am local time and land in Beijing about 11 hours later.
As well as its two daily services from Dubai to Beijing, Emirates has twice-daily services to Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as a daily service to Guangzhou. The airline has 11 A380s in service, flying to London, Paris, Toronto, Seoul, Bangkok, Jeddah, Sydney and Auckland, as well as Beijing. Just as Emirates is increasing capacity on its Dubai-to-Beijing route, so Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, is looking to expand its services between the capital and China.
On a visit to Beijing two months ago, James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, said the airline wanted to make its Beijing service, currently five times a week, a daily service. In addition, the airline is hoping to launch a service to Shanghai and after that a route to Guangzhou. Etihad began its Beijing service in March 2008 with four services a week, increasing this to five two years later. In addition to its passenger services to China, Etihad also operates freight services to Shanghai, Tianjin and Guangzhou and is looking to increase the frequency of these flights as well. Robert Bruce, a Hong Kong-based aviation analyst for CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, said the expansion of services by the UAE's carriers came amid a positive outlook for the Chinese aviation sector.
"Overall, the growth in outgoing passengers remains a strong trend in the medium term," he said. dbardsley@thenational.ae