For the first time, there will be nonstop flights from Boston to China starting in 2014 due to high demand for international travel between the two cities, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick announced on Wednesday.
Hainan Airlines will offer the service four days a week starting June 20, 2014. The route will save five to six hours both ways, in contrast to original routes that include stops and layovers, putting the total flight time at a little over 13 hours.
“This is a great opportunity for Boston and New England,” said Joel Chusid, executive director for the United States for Hainan Airlines. “We’re going to be the conduit to increase trade and increase passenger traffic, [which] is not only students, but tourists and business travels both way.”
Chusid said the airline looked to provide the flights as early as five years ago, but in addition to delays related to the several forms of approval needed to conduct the flights, the necessary aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, was not physically available until recently.
Several Massachusetts officials said they were excited for the opportunity to further boost tourism in Massachusetts, which, for Boston, is already a primary source of revenue.
Richard A. Davey, secretary and chief executive of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and chairman of the board for Massport, said the flights would provide an added degree of convenience for the many international travelers going through Boston or Beijing.
“Boston is the 6th largest airline passenger market in the U.S. to China and the largest without nonstop service,” he said in aWednesday press release. “This new route will help the regional economy, boost tourism and provide a convenient connection for tens of thousands of visitors.”
Paul Guzzi, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, said the flights would better connect Boston to the global economy in all sectors, going beyond the large number of students in Boston from China and their visiting families.
“China is the second largest economy in the world,” he said at a Thursday press conference. “This is going to mean a lot in terms of increased revenues to Massachusetts in general, and to Greater Boston in particular. International visitors, one, often stay longer and, two, spend more money, so it’s good for the economy, and it also means that we in Massachusetts are outward-looking and outward-oriented in terms of business.”
Until the airline starts the actual benefit cannot be truly known, but Chusid said there is a good outlook in the uncertainty.
“We don’t really release how much we expect to earn, because we don’t really know,” he said. “There’s more pressure for airlines nowadays where, being a Chinese airlines not owned by the government. We’ve had a lot of people [ask] about [how it is] beneficial for us and also for the community. We say it’s revenue positive, but on how much money we’re going to make, we don’t really know. We just know it’s going to be positive.”
Several residents said they found the flights important to make travel more efficient and business opportunities easier to pursue.
Alex Dixon, 20, of Boston, said another means for families to stay connected is always a step in the direction.
“Politicians, business people and everyone should be able to travel internationally,” he said. It’ll [the flights] make it easier. It’s good for cultural understanding and the economic benefits. Also for migration and people who want to visit their families.”
Patrick Thomas, 25, of Allston, said the greater ability to travel would help develop international connections, but it was more of a reaction to the large amount of connections already present in Boston rather than a proactive measure.
“Boston is an international city and already a market place of its own,” he said. “It’s a transplant city. Reaching out [internationally] reflects the city as a whole. It seems like a natural thing that’s going to happen and is happening now. There are so many people from around the world here: different mindsets, personalities, ways of life…Opening up [commercially and economically abroad] is something that’s fitting.”