Air China will begin direct flights between Athens and Beijing from next month. It is a further sign of the strengthening ties between Greece and China over the past year or so, which saw over 150,000 Chinese tourists visit Greece in 2016. According to recently released data, that figure could rise to over a million by 2021.
Greek State Minister Alekos Flambouraris and Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli made the announcement last month during a press release at Maximos Mansion.
Earlier this year, Cosco Shipping signed an agreement with China Eastern Airlines, China’s third largest, for the charter of flights directly from Chinese cities transporting Chinese travellers to Greece.
Improving Greek-Chinese relations has been high on the agenda of the SYRIZA-led government as it seeks to gain further investments from overseas to boost the economy. During prime minister Alexis Tspiras’ official visit to China in July, President Xi Jinping referred to Greece as an important strategic partner and ‘China’s most reliable partner in the EU’.
Until recently, Air China offered twice weekly flights from Athens to Beijing via Munich, but the launch of a direct flight will be further boost to the Greek aviation industry. Earlier this year, Emirates began year-round direct flights from Athens to New York.