Air China, which operates on the Delhi and Bangalore routes, is set to expand its services to India with a Beijing-Mumbai flight from September. The airline will be the first among the three Chinese airlines operating in India to touchdown at the Mumbai airport.
The only direct airlink between Mumbai and China is Air India's tri-weekly flights to Shanghai. Jet Airways had launched flights from Mumbai to San Francisco via Shanghai a few years ago, but the service was suspended following losses. Jet Chairman Naresh Goyal had recently said the airline was looking to introduce flights to Shanghai and Beijing as part of its expansion plans.
Sources familiar with Air China's plan said it hopes to tap the growing business and leisure traffic on the route. The Mumbai-Beijing flight will stop over at Chengdu. The airline will be using a narrow body airbus A319 aircraft with a two-class layout. An airbus A319, can be fitted with 122-145 seats depending on the class configuration.
“Currently most people flying to Beijing fly via Delhi or transit from Bangkok or Hong Kong. China has emerged as a key venue for trade fairs and exhibitions. Also, a large number of Indian traders and importers travel to China. Leisure travel to China has also picked up,” said Iqbal Mulla, treasurer of Travel Agents Association of India.
A Mumbai International Airport Limited spokesperson said Air China has indicated it wants to start operations but has not officially applied for a slot. A few years ago, Eastern China airline had operated a flight to Mumbai for a while, he said.
Air China, the national flag carrier of China, is the world's largest airline in terms of market value. It operates over 280 planes covering 32 countries. In 2010, the airline flew 60 million passengers.