Vancouver becomes first North American airport with direct flights to Kunming

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Image: Kunming, Yunnan via Shutterstock

Beginning this summer, China Eastern Airlines will operate a new route between Vancouver International Airport and Changshui International Airport in Kunming, located in the southwest Chinese province of Yunnan.

The service, which is scheduled to begin on June 26, will fly three times a week and connect via Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

Kunming is one of China’s largest tourism destinations and the new route will effectively become the Chinese city’s first flight service to a North American destination.

“This new service marks another step toward achieving our mission of connecting British Columbia to the world,” said Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Craig Richmond in a statement. “Kunming is a key gateway destination and is the largest city in Yunnan Province, with a rich and vibrant history and a great future as a transportation hub.”

“Having service to Kunming from YVR opens up exciting new tourism and business opportunities for Canadians and further establishes Vancouver as a gateway hub between Asia and the Americas.”

Kunming has a population of about 7.2 million people and is a renowned tourism destination with connections to major destinations in Southeast Asia. Nearly 30 million tourists flock to the city every year for its scenic views and natural landscapes, such as the ‘Stone Forest’ of Shilin National Park and Dinanchi Lake – the largest freshwater lake in the province.

China Eastern Airlines has been operating flights from Vancouver since 2004. Just two years ago, the airline doubled the number of flights for its Vancouver to Shanghai route – increasing the service from once a day to twice daily.

About 60 flights travel to China on a normal weekly basis, and this number grows to over 70 flights per week during the peak summer travel season.

Vancouver International Airport is the only North American airport with routes operated by four mainland Chinese airlines and was the first North American airport selected by Sichuan Airlines for its long-haul flight.

The new service will provide another boost to the airport’s passenger numbers, which reached a record 19.358 million in 2014 – a one-year increase of more than 1.386-million passengers.

Strong passenger growth is expected to continue in 2015 with the introduction of direct Air France flights between Vancouver and Paris, a new non-stop Air Canada route to Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, and new direct Qantas flights to Sydney.

Additional new major routes could also be announced later this year.

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