Hainan Airlines launches inaugural flight between Calgary and Beijing
Regular air service to and from Chinese capital expected to bring $76M boost to Alberta's GDP
Regular air service between Calgary and Beijing began Thursday as the inaugural Hainan Airlines flight between the Canadian and Chinese cities took off.
"It's finally the big day," said Stephan Poirier of the Calgary Airport Authority.
"Non-stop service between Calgary and Beijing is now a reality; it's no longer a plan."
Hainan will offer flights three times a week between Beijing and Calgary, in what the airport authority has described as a "crucial" move for the local economy.
Poirier said the new flight is projected to create 625 new jobs in Alberta's tourism and related industries, including $31 million in wages — a $76 million boost in GDP.
"Direct air access from one of the most important aviation centres in mainland China will make Alberta easily accessible and attractive for Chinese travellers," said Minister of Economic Development and Trade Deron Bilous.
"I see it playing a significant role in growing Alberta's tourism industry ... At the same time, the route will provide new opportunities for cross-cultural and economic exchanges."
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it's fitting for the Chinese airline to bring regular service to Calgary, in particular.
"It's not too much to say that the history of Calgary is, in many ways, the history of the Chinese community in Calgary," he said.
"Before I was mayor, we celebrated the centennial of Calgary's Chinatown, indicating that there has been a Chinese community here as long as there's been a Calgary here."
Poirier said the flights will do more than connect points on a map.
"We're also building a lot of cultural connections," he said.
"These flights will carry educators and musicians. They'll carry students, athletes — potentially going to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022 — looking to expand their knowledge and broaden their experience and then share their cultures and talents."