The maiden flight of national carrier South African Airways’ (SAA’s) nonstop route to Beijing, China, departed from OR Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
The flight would be the first of three new weekly frequencies between Johannesburg and the Chinese capital on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The route’s introduction follows a comprehensive strategic partnership forged between South Africa and China in August last year, which saw the countries entering into bilateral agreements for cooperation on infrastructure construction, transport, water resources usage, housing, health and education.
“The introduction of aviation links between nations nurtures economic activity…with domestic and regional benefit within the Southern African Development Community expected to pay dividends both in terms of trade and tourism,” SAA CEO Siza Mzimela said in a statement.
She stated that substantial demand for tourism and trade to China would contribute to the success of the new route.
The Johannesburg/Beijing route would also contribute significantly to establishing South Africa as an aviation hub between South America and China, linking three of the five Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
“We believe that the route will play a strategic role in the growing economic relationships and dependencies between the continents. Commercially, SAA is able to deliver seamless travel from Sao Paolo via Johannesburg to Beijing, servicing all three continents,” Mzimela added.
SAA would operate its Airbus A340-600 long-haul aircraft on the route, with flying time between Johannesburg and Beijing totalling almost 15 hours.
China is one of South Africa’s largest trade partners.