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Direct Shanghai flights reinforce Saudi air links scheme

China Eastern Airlines will operate three flights a week from Shanghai to Riyadh CC BY-SA 2.0/byeangel
China Eastern Airlines will operate three flights a week from Shanghai to Riyadh

China Eastern Airlines is to launch direct flights to Riyadh as part of the Saudi Air Connectivity Program (ACP) and the ‘Air Silk Road’ initiative to improve trade and tourism links between the two countries.

Commencing on April 8, 2024, the three weekly flights will operate directly from Shanghai Pudong Airport and Riyadh’s King Khalid International, offering up to 35,880 inbound seats per year, the state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported.

“The introduction of this new route with one of the world’s largest airlines is another step towards enhancing connectivity between Saudi Arabia and China, a key priority market for us,” Majid Khan, the CEO of ACP, was quoted as saying.

Established by the Saudi Ministry of Tourism in 2021, ACP aims to enhance Saudi air connectivity from unserved and underserved markets around the world.

The program is part of the kingdom’s bid to attract 100 million tourists per year. This target was set for 2030 but was achieved seven years early with more than 106 million tourists visiting Saudi Arabia last year.

The target has now been increased to 150 million annual visitors by the end of the decade.

China Eastern Airlines is one of China’s three state-owned flagship airlines. Established in Shanghai in January 1957, it is listed on the Shanghai and Hong Kong stock markets and operates a fleet of approximately 800 aircraft.

The airline deal is also part of the ‘Air Silk Road’ initiative to improve trade links between the two countries.

In December last year, deals worth more than $25 billion were signed at the Saudi-China Investment Conference in Beijing.

More than 60 agreements and memoranda of understanding were completed at the meeting, the Saudi Ministry of Investment said in a statement.

The deals covered sectors including energy, agriculture, tourism, mining, financial services, logistics, infrastructure, technology and healthcare.

China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner with bilaterial trade of well over $100 billion dollars.

Think tank Asia House said Saudi-China trade has nearly doubled since 2010. It described President Xi Jinping’s visit to Riyadh in December 2022 as a “watershed” in the countries’ relationship.

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