Nonstop Flight Connects Boston, China

Nov 27, 2013Boston Herald, Council in the News

By Donna Goodison

The first nonstop air service between Boston and Beijing will be announced next week, the Herald has learned — and it promises to dramatically boost business between a leading world technology and research zone here in the Hub and China’s massive emerging market.

Massport, after years of pushing for the globe-shrinking flights, is due to announce next week that China’s Hainan Airlines will launch nonstop service in June, initially four times per week, according to sources briefed on the plans. The airline filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation on Nov. 12 that’s expected to be approved early next week, the sources told the Herald.

“China is a huge market opportunity,” said Christopher Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council. “This is obviously very welcome. It not only helps our economy gain easier access to another market — direct service to anywhere opens up access for that location to our innovation assets.”

While Anderson acknowledged that U.S. business has ongoing intellectual property protection concerns in China — the world’s second largest economy — he cited huge opportunities for Massachusetts-developed technologies unrelated to security concerns, including health care and energy.

“China is increasing energy consumption as their economy expands rapidly, and as they (do), they also need to increase their energy generation capa¬city,” Anderson said. “They have a focus on clean energy technologies. A number of those technologies are served by innovations that are located here.”

Boston-Beijing flights also will be a boon for New England tourism. Chinese visitors to Boston were second only to those from the United Kingdom last year, and they’ve jumped 287 percent to 147,000 annually since 2008. Those numbers could as much as double in the next five years once nonstop service is added, said Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau chief Pat Moscaritolo.

“It’s going to mean hundreds of millions of dollars in new visitor spending for Boston, Massachusetts and New England,” Moscaritolo said.

Retail is among the sectors that will benefit most significantly, said Moscaritolo, who also expects to see new tourism-¬related businesses catering to Chinese visitors.

Massport wouldn’t confirm the pending announcement yesterday.

“We talk to airlines all the time,” spokesman Richard Walsh said. “When and if there’s an announcement, we’ll make it.”

The DOT did not return Herald calls, and Joel Chusid, Hainan’s U.S. executive director, said he “can’t confirm anything yet.”

By August, the 20-year-old Hainan Airlines plans to average 30 to 31 flights between Boston and Beijing per month, and carry 5,200 to 6,200 passengers on Boeing 787s, according to its DOT application. It launched its first nonstop U.S. service to Beijing from Seattle in 2008 and started Chicago flights on Sept. 3.

“We have a very kind of upscale business class,” Chusid said, noting the airline offers flat-bed seats and amenities such as pajamas and slippers in first class. In economy class, Hainan “doesn’t charge for all the extras that other guys do,” he said.

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