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By Amanda Watson

News Editor

Air China to expand tourism from home base into Africa

Air China currently has an office in Johannesburg operating the Beijing-Shenzhen-Johannesburg route.

Having reopened its Johannesburg office in March, the People’s Republic of China’s flag carrier, Air China, is confident of its chances of cornering the tourism market in the near future.

“China’s economic growth and increasing disposable incomes have led to more Chinese tourists travelling abroad,” the state company said in an e-mail interview with The Citizen.

“Air China plays an important role in expanding tourism from China and facilitating international visits by Chinese tourists.

“We are committed to providing convenient, safe and comfortable air services, opening up more travel destinations for Chinese tourists.”

Air China reaches for the sky

Spending 18 hours on a flight is always going to be tough, but when the plane is comfortable and willing staff work hard to maximise your comfort; then it becomes much easier to bear.

The Citizen was invited by Xinhua News Agency to visit China for a week and experience a little of what the country has to offer. And a great destination is always helped by a great journey there.

Boarding Air China’s Airbus A350-900 on flight CA 868 on Monday morning last week, this reporter was assigned an aisle seat, 34C, in premium economy class.

ALSO READ: South Africa’s love affair with China…

The Air China configuration runs 32 flatbed seats in business class, 24 recliner seats in premium economy and 256 standard seats in economy, according to seatguru.com.

However, flying back last Sunday on flight CA 867, I landed up in steerage up against a window which, for someone with a 1.77m extra-large frame, is not ideal.

Still, each seat had its own monitor which carried TV series, Hollywood blockbusters, music and for locals flying out of China, a selection of Chinese movies and TV series, as well as reclining seats with two stages, allowing for relatively decent stretches of sleep.

There is also free Wi-Fi and charging ports for small devices such as iPads and phones, so rather leave your power bank behind as you will not need it.

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The economy seats were no less comfortable than those up front, excluding business class, and I was able to juggle seats in my row for a little more legroom, thanks to willing passengers and helpful stewardesses.

The service and hot delicious meals made us feel as if we were receiving the same level of attention as the business class passengers were.

Air China answered some questions for us:

What are the main tourist attractions in SA?

South Africa is renowned for its diverse natural landscapes, wildlife reserves, world-class national parks and beautiful beaches.

Famous attractions include the Kruger National Park, Table Mountain and Cape Point in Cape Town, nearby wine regions such as Stellenbosch and the Drakensberg Mountains.

South Africa is also a prominent golf tourism destination with a thriving golf industry. Its high-quality golf courses, resorts, tournaments, professional coaches and tourism services attract many golf enthusiasts and professional players.

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Whether seeking challenges or leisure relaxation, South Africa is an ideal golf tourism destination. These attractions have attracted many Chinese tourists to visit South Africa, providing unforgettable experiences in wildlife, natural scenery and historical and cultural heritage.

Where does Air China see its business going in Africa?

In 2013, China proposed the significant initiative of jointly building “The Belt and Road”, which not only guides China’s economic development, but also benefits developing countries.

This initiative has garnered high attention from the international community and received positive responses from relevant countries.

What are your plans for expansion?

Air China currently has an office in Johannesburg operating the Beijing-Shenzhen-Johannesburg route. Our business development in Africa aims to be comprehensive, catering to both business and leisure travellers.

As Africa emerges as a developing tourism market for China, it will attract a large number of visitors in the future. We are committed to providing comprehensive aviation services to meet the needs of different types of customers. We have signed bilateral air transport agreements with 25 out of 46 African countries along the Belt and Road route.

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Guided by the Belt and Road initiative, Air China will further enhance its network layout in Africa through new routes, flight code-sharing with African airlines and cooperation within the Star Alliance.

Star Alliance: what are the benefits for Air China and Air China’s clients?

Joining Star Alliance brings many benefits to both Air China and our customers. Star Alliance is a global airline alliance where member airlines share resources and cooperate as partners. This allows passengers to enjoy advantages such as a wider route network, seamless travel services and mileage interconnectivity. These benefits are crucial in enhancing customer travel experiences and satisfaction.

When it comes to quality of travel, against which competitors does Air China measure itself?

Air China’s vision is to become a leading carrier in the world. We view competitors as the driving forces for industry development and continually strive to improve the quality of our services and products.

We respect our competitor’s performance and achievements and continuously learn from their strengths. At the same time, we hope competitors will use Air China as one of the benchmarks to promote the development of the industry and enhance the passenger experience.

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Every Air China aircraft is adorned with a red Phoenix. For us, the Phoenix symbolises spirit. At the core of the Phoenix spirit is the will to serve the world, to lead and move forward to higher goals.

Our mission stresses operational safety, customer orientation, steady growth, people development and fulfilment of responsibilities.

– amandaw@citizen.co.za

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