The first Boeing 787 to fly nonstop from Guangzhou in South China to The City touched down at San Francisco International Airport at 10:25 a.m. Monday, and later another plane made the trip back.
The inaugural flights by China Southern Airlines elevated SFO’s status as providing more nonstop flights between San Francisco and China than any other airport in the U.S.
Last December, China Southern Airlines added nonstop flights to and from Wuhan in Central China and other airlines at SFO have been servicing roundtrips to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. Los Angeles International Airport offers three nonstop destinations and is working on increasing to four.
SFO’s offering of five nonstop flights to China “just shows the strong degree of growth between the two countries,” said SFO spokesman Charles Schuler at a press conference at the San Francisco Airport Museum on Monday.
Zhang Zifang, chief operating officer for China Southern Airlines and a passenger on the inaugural flight that arrived Monday at gate 85, said in Mandarin translated by an interpreter: “The minute I stepped out of our cabin, I already
felt the warm reception from San Francisco International Airport and the San Francisco Travel Association.”
China Southern Airlines is the largest airliner in China and last year had more than 100 million passengers, ranking first in both China and Asia.
Just a few years ago, China was a small generator of visitors to San Francisco. But Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, said he believes China will be the leading generator of visitors to The City this year.
The travel association, D’Alessandro said, will work to “ensure that this flight is successful and grows.”
Mark Chandler, director of the Mayor Ed Lee’s Office of International Trade and Commerce, said a nonstop flight to Guangzhou is something Lee had been in discussions about since two years ago. Many people are aware of the strong ties between the two cities and “this flight is a bridge that is going to bring families together, businesses together,” Chandler said.
Luo Linquan, China’s Counsul General to San Francisco, agreed in Mandarin the idea for the nonstop flight has become “very popular” and that in recent years, the U.S. and China have been intensely collaborating in areas including culture, education and technology.
Linquan added in Mandarin translated by an interpreter: “I’m still worried that if we open this direct flight, would it make the whole city of San Francisco too crowded with Chinese tourists,” drawing laughs from dignitaries in the aviation and cultural affairs industries.
China Southern Airlines will operate one non-stop flight in each direction between SFO and Guangzhou on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.