Air China will start Beijing-Johannesburg nonstop service using B777-300ER aircraft from 29 October 2015, which will be the first air link offered by a Chinese carrier between Mainland China and South Africa and also Air China’s first route to Africa since the 1970s when it had one nonstop service to the continent.
South Africa accounts for about one third of Africa’s GDP and is also China’s biggest trading partner in Africa. Currently, nearly 1.2 million Chinese live in South Africa and the latest statistics from Chinese customs suggest that in 2014, the China-Africa import and export volume amounted to US$221.88 billion, hitting an all-time high, up 5.5 per cent over the previous year.
“After many years of absence from the African market… the new service will further solidify the political, economic and cultural exchanges between China and Africa,” the carrier said.
Later this year, Air China will also start a Beijing-Addis Ababa service. The two routes are part of Air China’s endeavour to build its global route network from its hub in Beijing.
This year, Air China continues to build its international presence by starting more international routes and in addition to the two new routes to Africa, Air China also started a Chengdu-Colombo service in February, Hangzhou-Osaka service in March, Tianjin-Dalian-Sapporo in April, Beijing-Minsk-Budapest in May, Beijing-Melbourne nonstop service in June and Beijing-Hakodate in July. These new services have made Air China one of the few carriers in the world that served all the six continents and the only Chinese carrier to do so.
A member of the Star Alliance, Air China has a fleet of 523 passenger aircraft and freighters of mainly Boeing and Airbus families (including those of the carriers which Air China has a majority stake in). It operates 349 routes, including 87 international routes, 16 regional routes and 246 domestic routes. It serves 168 cities in 35 countries and regions, including 58 international cities, 4 regional cities and 106 domestic cities.