Airline announcements pave Asian way to Spanish skies

AIR connections between Asia and Spain will see a boost with Air China’s new Beijing-Barcelona service and Air Europa’s freshly sealed codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways.

Air China will open its second route to Spain on May 5 with a four-times-weekly Beijing-Barcelona service via Vienna, operated with the Airbus A330-300.

Air China’s local sales representative, Marta Ortiz, said the airline has been preparing for the launch since end-2012 and expects a lot of traffic from the Barcelona end.

Fabrizio Guidoni, sales and contracts director at inbound operator Gartour, which has offices in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, said Spain had lacked the direct connections to Asia, which made it hard to include in the European packages popular with the Chinese.

“(The new flights) will be very useful for us, not only for tours taking in Spain itself but also extending them to Portugal,” said Guidoni, but cautioned that the success of this endeavour would depend on marketing efforts by Spain and Portugal.

Separately, Globalia’s Air Europa has inked a codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways. Juan José Hidalgo, president of Globalia, said at FITUR that the aim is to establish a “gateway to countries such as India, China, Australia and other eastern destinations”.

The accord will begin by offering connecting flights through other Etihad destinations in Europe before Air Europa launches a direct thrice-weekly service between Madrid and Abu Dhabi by end-2014.

With the Spanish airline also expanding its network in the Americas, Hidalgo described the agreement as a “perfect link for connecting the Americas and Asia” via the two cities.

Manager for Spanish-speaking countries at Asian inbound agency Fantastica China, Zhou Fan, said: “Getting more flights is very good for receptive and outbound…This will help a lot after a weak period (when Spanish tourists were hit by the economic crisis).”

But while welcoming “more options”, Javier Salvador Parra, group managing director at Philippines-based operator Indochina said the new partnership might struggle against “well-established” Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates.

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