Hainan Airlines launches direct flight from Shanghai to Brussels

Author: BenCham Beijing

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China's carrier Hainan Airlines on Wednesday launched its first non-stop flight between Shanghai and Brussels.

"This is an important moment in the history of the China-Belgium relationship. A year ago we had the opportunity to sign an agreement; today we are making a commitment that will strengthen the links between China and Belgium," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was attending an inaugural ceremony of the flight in Brussels International Airport, told Xinhua.

Official data shows that over 120 million Chinese tourists travel abroad each year. And with this additional direct flight, more Chinese tourists will choose Belgium as their starting point for a tour in Europe, it is hoped.

"Belgium is a gateway to the European Union. We want to strengthen economic development, commercial trade and cultural dynamics with China. There is friendship and strong relationship (between the two countries) and we want to develop them through concrete projects such as those related to the development of this airline," said the prime minister who was accompanied by several Belgian senior government officials.

As the second direct flight between China and Belgium, the service is an early morning one, departing Shanghai at 1:25 and arriving in Brussels at 7:30 (both local time). The returning leg, meanwhile, departs Brussels just after midday at 12:30 and arrives the following morning in Shanghai at 5:30.

Coinciding with the 46th anniversary of the establishment of China-Belgium diplomatic ties, the three-times-weekly service - flying on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - is hoped to inject new momentum into the development of bilateral cooperation.

"I noticed that in recent months there has been a strengthening of our diplomatic, economic and commercial relations, and I hope that we will continue to work in the spirit of mutual understanding. We indeed want to be a strong partner in the heart of Europe and ensure that we can develop win-win strategic projects that are good for China, Europe and Belgium," said Michel.

"The Brussels-Shanghai direct flight is a fruit of the Belt and Road Initiative," said Chinese Ambassador to Belgium Qu Xing in his speech during the ceremony.

"Today's kick-off of the Brussels-Shanghai direct flight is a concrete step to strengthen the connectivity between China and Belgium in order to deepen and extend our bilateral cooperation. The Belt and Road Initiative also calls for intensification of people-to-people exchanges, and I am pretty sure that the directly flight is part of this great picture. Each year, over 120 million Chinese tourists travel abroad and I am sure, with this additional direct flight, more Chinese tourists will choose Belgium as their starting point for a tour in Europe," he added.