In recognition of the need for greater access to California, Air China is strengthening its presence in the American market by adding additional direct flights to its Beijing-Los Angeles route. The initial roll out will include four added flights a week, and from July, the airline will add another three for a total of 21 non-stop flights per week between the cities. It will become the first Chinese company to offer three daily flights on this route. Air China also currently operates nonstop flights from Beijing to Houston, Hawai‘i, and Washington, DC. In total, it flies to six destinations in the US offering 104 weekly flights to North American cities.
In addition to Air China’s expansion, other airlines have increased or announced future flights from China to California. Eastern Airlines recently added a direct flight between LA and Hefei, a city in southeast China. There are reports that a flight between LA and Hangzhou will begin later this year. Meanwhile, California is not the only state seeing new flights from China. In May, Cathay Pacific will launch the first ever direct flight between Boston and Hong Kong and American Airlines will soon introduce direct flights between Beijing and Dallas. Last summer, United Airlines launched flights between Beijing and Washington, DC.
Chinese tourists visiting LA have nearly quadrupled in number over the past four years, with over half a million arriving in 2013. These numbers could grow, as there are already over a million Chinese visitors a year statewide and two million could visit by 2020. This is good news for the state economy, as Chinese tourists spend an average of $6,000 per person during visits, the most of any country in the world. Experts predict they will spend more than $2.2 billion in the state in coming years.
California and China enjoy a robust trade and cultural relationship. They share a number of sister relationships, including two state relationships with China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Jiangsu Province. California’s top Asian export market is China and the state is home to over a million Chinese Americans. In addition, many Chinese students attend university in California and Chinese investment in the state remains highest in the US.
Nate Schlabach is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.