In a rather odd but potentially great addition, China Eastern Airlines has launched a direct flight from their secondary hub in Qingdao to San Francisco.
The flight will operate thrice weekly beginning September 29 and will be operated by the A330 featuring the airline’s new full flat bed product.
Despite the somewhat quick lead in time for the flight, initial reports suggest that forward bookings are strong for the route and the airline might even up the service to 5x weekly before year’s end.
Interestingly the flight continues on with the same flight number to Kunming, though passengers who continue on must clear all immigration and customs formalities in Qingdao as the first port of entry into China.
This is definitely a very interesting add by China Eastern – and choosing San Francisco is no coincidence either. As United and Star Alliance further bolster their SFO ‘fortress’ hub, SkyTeam and Chinese carriers (who are not Air China) will need to get creative to carve out a niche for themselves in the lucrative northern California market, and this is just it. Indeed with United already making inroads into secondary cities direct from SFO such as Wuhan and Sichuan in China through their newly delivered 787-8 aircraft and Air China remaining the CAAC’s favorite in terms of route and slot allocation, we might begin to see routes like this pop up through other players in the Chinese market – Hainan Airlines, Xiamen Air and Shanghai Airlines come to mind.
Now where those introductory business class fares at?