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Airlines Spread Their Wings to City

China's eastern metropolis has become a coveted destination for European airlines which are vying with each other in opening non-stop flights.


The situation comes from the fact that more and more Chinese people are becoming wealthier and the door to Europe is opening wider to Chinese tourists.


After Scandinavian Airlines announced one week ago that it will open its three weekly services from Shanghai to Copenhagen on March 29, Austrian Airlines has decided to launch three flights a week from Shanghai to Vienna starting April 29.


"We do believe that competition is fierce, but our confidence in the market is strong," said Josef Burger, chief commercial officer of Austrian Airlines.


Burger said on his recent tour of Shanghai that the three flights are part of the company's initial attempt to enter the Shanghai market.


Following the above-mentioned two airlines, other European carriers which already have flights to Shanghai are also planning to add more flights to meet the needs of growing numbers of tourists.


Germany's Lufthansa is expected to lead others in having daily two flights to Pudong International Airport as of March 31, with one to Frankfurt and one to Munich.


"We have good prospects for the Chinese market, especially Shanghai," a Lufthansa spokeswoman said.


Last Wednesday, Air France announced it would add two flights to its current five weekly departures from Guangzhou to Paris as of June 14. It already has daily flight in Shanghai. Finnair will have five weekly flights from Shanghai to Helsinki by June. Finnair China Sales Director Mikko Rautio said the airline will add two more flights in April of next year.


In another development, China Eastern Airlines will open three weekly flights on April 1 from Shanghai to London as one of China's three flagship carriers looks to gain a foothold in the profitable European tourist market.


The flights on A340-600 and A340-300 aircraft are expected to become daily services by the end of this year, said Wan Mingwu, a senior manager with China Eastern.


At present, three airlines - British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and China Eastern - are carrying 250,000 passengers annually on the air route between China and Britain.


"The figure will grow fast, with more students studying overseas and more tourists touring abroad," Wan said.


Five years ago, 60 percent of visas to Britain were refused.


"But now 90 percent are granted on the same day," said Sue Bishop, Consul-General for the British Consulate General in Shanghai.


"We are trying to provide excellent visa services to Chinese citizens," Bishop said at a press conference held by China Eastern Airlines over the launch of more flights to London yesterday.


(China Daily March 16, 2004)


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