Photo Credit: Haim Zach / GPO
Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China, Liu Yandong and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

by Anav Silverman

In cooperation with Israel’s Tourism Ministry, the fourth largest airline in China – Hainan Airlines – signed a marketing agreement this week to open a new direct route from Shanghai to Tel Aviv. The development makes Hainan Airlines the first airline to operate regular flights between the economic capital of China and Israel.

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“We are very excited to announce the opening of a new direct route from Shanghai,” said Li Liang, the General Manager of Hainan Airlines. “We have no doubt that the new route from Shanghai will continue to boost the number of tourists visiting Israel from China and will serve as another bridge in strengthening the commercial ties between China and Israel.”

Li Liang also noted the that Shanghai holds a unique place in the historical connection between China and the Jewish people, when the city absorbed 30,000 Jews fleeing Europe during WWII. “We are proud to strengthen this connection today,” he said.

Beginning September 12, Hainan Airlines will operate three direct weekly flights from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Israel. Ticket prices for a round-trip flight will start at $669 in economy class.

Hainan Airlines first entered the Israeli market in April 2016 and operates four weekly flights from Beijing to Ben Gurion International Airport. In its first year of operations in Israel, the largest private Chinese airline flew over 76,000 passengers on its direct flights to Israel from Beijing. Only this year, from January to April of this year, 35,800 tourist entries from China were recorded, a 116 percent increase in the same period last year.

The airline accounts for 63 percent of direct flights between China and Israel, with Chinese passengers accounting for about 70 percent of all flights and Israelis for 30 percent. In addition to the four weekly flights from Beijing to Tel Aviv, Hainan Airlines will add another in September.

“I congratulate Hainan Airlines on opening a new route from Shanghai, another direct route that will bring record numbers of tourists from China,” said Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. ” I am pleased that Hainan Airlines has expressed this vote of confidence in us and continues its cooperation with us in its operations in Israel.”

In the last year, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of tourists and business people visiting Israel from China.

Israel’s former ambassador to China, Matan Vilnai said that it was important to make Israel accessible to the East. “For many years, it was difficult to get here, but we have worked very hard to make Israel open to China,” Vilnai said.

“There is a great interest in China in the technological innovation that Israel is known for, in addition to the history of the State. The bottom line is that want Israel to be as accessible as possible to this important market.”

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