Today is a momentous day in Scottish aviation as the first-ever direct flight from China touched down at Edinburgh Airport.
The four-weekly, year-round service with Hainan Airlines to Beijing Capital International Airport is Scotland’s first connection to the Far East.
It is a major boost for tourism in Scotland and increases business links with the Far East, both of which will benefit the Scottish economy. The flights were first announced in March.
A piper from the world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo welcomed passengers from Beijing to Scotland before piping them off on departure.
Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport said: ‘This is a momentous day as we connect not only Edinburgh and Beijing for the first time, but Scotland and China too. It is a route which has immense opportunities for our countries, from tourism and business to culture, education and more.
‘We know Edinburgh is second only to London for Chinese tourists and we are eager to welcome more people to our fantastic capital city, but it’s also about connecting people from Scotland to Beijing and wider China thanks to Hainan’s hub network.
‘Hainan is one of the world’s most prestigious airlines and we are proud to be working with them. This is something the city has worked towards for a number of years and we are delighted to see this day finally arrive.’
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: ‘Securing direct links between Scotland and China is one of our key priorities for route development. This new direct Beijing-Edinburgh route is an exciting first chapter in direct air connectivity between Scotland and China.
‘It will enable China and Scotland to become closer in partnership and in travel time, building upon existing strong links for business and tourism. The Scottish Government and our agencies look forward to working with Hainan Airlines and Edinburgh Airport to make this route a great success.’
The route will be serviced by an Airbus A330-300 and includes a stopover in Dublin as part of an innovative flight model which links the three capital cities.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays the flight arrives into Edinburgh from Beijing at 6am and departs for Dublin at 8am and then on to Beijing.
On Thursdays and Sundays the flight arrives into Edinburgh from Dublin at 9.10am before departing for Beijing at 11.10am.
The Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Frank Ross said: ‘This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a number of organisations and it is fantastic for all of us to see the new flight schedule up and running. As the only Scottish city with a direct flight to China, the new route will provide Edinburgh with substantial outreach to Asia for tourism, business travel and investment opportunities.
‘This will be supported by many across the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors through the city’s innovative ‘China Ready’ campaign and I’m sure it will also be welcomed by Edinburgh’s many business travellers and holiday-makers.’
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, added: ‘This first direct service from China to Edinburgh represents a gear change for Scottish tourism and further cements Scotland’s reputation as a world-class destination.
‘As the Chinese market has grown over the years so too has the Scottish capital’s popularity with Chinese visitors and it continues to be the top destination outside of London.
‘Through our ongoing work with key Chinese tour operators we have seen visitor itineraries extending over the years. Bringing visitors from China directly into the heart of Scotland will create greater opportunities for tourism businesses right across the country, as visitors stay longer and explore further.’
Paul Lewis, managing director of Scottish Development International, concluded: ‘We’re working hard to ensure that more Scottish companies can take advantage of trade and investment opportunities in China, while at the same time trying to attract more Chinese companies to base their European operations here.
‘A direct air route is a significant enabler of both these goals and we welcome Hainan Airlines’ first ever route between Edinburgh Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport.’