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In recent weeks, Hainan Airlines began direct service
between New York and two of China's secondary cities, Chengdu and Chongqing, as
part of its expanding U.S. network.
The carrier, which began U.S. operations in 2008 with a
Beijing-to-Seattle route, has grown to 10 routes connecting China to seven U.S.
destinations, Hainan's North America general manager Liang Pubin said. The new
routes from New York's John F. Kennedy International each will run twice
"These are very important cities economic-wise,
political-wise and cultural-wise," Liang said. "The China economy has
been growing fast for the past years." That, combined with general
economic growth, "creates the demand for those cities and also potential
growth for international connections. We try to pursue this direction to see if
this market strategy is going to add some new business models between those two
Corporate travel makes up 20 percent of Hainan's business,
but corporate revenue has grown "steadily" since it began the U.S.
routes in 2008, he said.
Unlike the largest Chinese airlines—Air China,
China Eastern and China Southern—Hainan is not a part of any of the major
alliances, though it does partner with several U.S. carriers. Alaska Airlines
is its closest partner, via mileage plan reciprocity, but Hainan also
codeshares with American Airlines and offers ticketing and baggage connection
with JetBlue via Boston, Liang said. Hainan remains "open for
opportunities" with the global alliances, he said.