China, UAE mull increasing flights to foster stronger economic and tourism ties | Travel

China and the United Arab Emirates are seeking to increase bilateral air traffic rights after years of stagnant travel growth, a move that would seek to boost trade and tourism between the two nations.

China, UAE mull increasing flights to foster stronger economic and tourism ties (File Photo / REUTERS)

Officials from both sides will meet in Beijing in coming weeks to discuss granting airlines increases in flights between the two nations, according to people familiar with the matter. Both China and the UAE want more connections after links were exhausted at 56 flights per country per week, said the people, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private.

No specific increase has been determined, one of the people said, and the exact outcome of the talks isn’t certain.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China didn’t respond to a request for comment. The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority said there are about 100 weekly flights between the two countries and “a long-standing bilateral relationship and a comprehensive economic partnership, reinforced by extensive cooperation and coordination across all sectors, including air transportation.” The authority didn’t comment on future talks with China.

Boosting air traffic between China and the UAE would be advantageous for the broader Middle East region as countries like Saudi Arabia experience a surge in Chinese visitors and investment. Emirates, which already operates its maximum of 35 flights a week to China, would be one of the greatest beneficiaries, along with China Southern Airlines Co., which currently flies to the UAE 20 times a week.

China is also keen to attract more foreign visitors post-Covid as international tourism has been slow to resume. To enhance China’s appeal, Beijing has granted dozens of countries visa waivers and removed some of the red tape around visa applications.

The UAE was one of the first places where Chinese carriers restored overseas flight capacity after the pandemic.

Of the seven carriers that fly between China and the UAE, only Etihad Airways PJSC isn’t using its full allotment, flying 10 times a week out of a possible 21.

As well as boosting commerce between the two economies, lifting the ceiling would allow earlier business plans to proceed.

China Eastern Airlines Co. and Etihad, for example, announced in June that they plan to expand routes between the two countries. But the Shanghai-based carrier needs to first start flights to Abu Dhabi, where there are currently no extra bilateral rights.

Forward seat booking data from Cirium shows that for China, excluding domestic and Asia regional flights, Dubai is forecast to be the busiest international route by volume this month.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile has been incentivising carriers to launch direct routes into the kingdom as it looks to boost tourism from China. China Southern, China Eastern and Air China Ltd. started regularly scheduled flights to the Gulf country earlier this year.

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