Air links between Scotland and China are being boosted with the first direct scheduled flights between the two countries.

From June, Hainan Airlines will run direct return flights between Edinburgh and Beijing twice a week.

Most passengers will be expected to be travelling to Edinburgh for tourism or business.

Two further return flights between the two cities each week will go via Dublin.

The route will fly from Beijing to Dublin and then onto Edinburgh and then back to Beijing on Thursdays and Sundays, flying to Edinburgh and then Dublin and then back to Beijing on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

An Airbus A330-300 will be used.

‘Worked incredibly hard’

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “This is a fantastic day for Edinburgh Airport and for Scotland as we connect Scotland and China for the first time.

“We are two countries steeped in history and rich in culture, offering new destinations for people from both countries to visit and explore.

“Edinburgh is second only to London as the most popular UK destination for Chinese tourists, and we have worked incredibly hard with partners across the city and country to get to this point.”

He added: “Tourism is one of our biggest economic drivers and still has masses of potential to unleash – let’s use this opportunity to drive it forward.”

Mr Bao Qifas, chairman of Hainan Airlines, said: “As a five-star airline and an outstanding representative of Chinese national enterprises, Hainan Airlines actively participates in the “One Belt One Road Initiative”, and is committed to become the forerunner and practitioner of achieving China’s civil aviation power.”

‘Important market’

Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, said: “This new air link between Scotland and China is excellent news, helping to strengthen relations between our two countries and build on the cultural and economic links that we already share.

“China is a major importer of Scottish goods and services – food and drink in particular – and this flight will give Scottish businesses a direct link into this important market.

“It will also make it even easier for Chinese visitors to experience our fantastic tourism offering and get a taste of our world-renowned Scottish hospitality.”

The UK government’s Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “The first scheduled direct route between Edinburgh and Beijing is fantastic news, and follows on from our work to increase the number of flights possible between the two countries.”

Edinburgh Council leader Adam McVey said: “A direct flight path from the capital to China has been a coveted route for many years, and today’s confirmation of the country’s first route to Beijing is a major coup for the city.”

Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “This first-ever direct flight from China to Scotland is fantastic news and marks an exciting gear change for Scottish tourism and its engagement with the Chinese market.

“Already in recent years we have seen a steady rise in Chinese visitors to our shores and have been working closely with businesses across Scotland to help them to access this important opportunity.”

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