South African Airways (SAA) will start flying non-stop from Johannesburg to Beijing, China, from January next year, in line with the carrier's strategy to expand its network to Asia.
The inaugural flight is scheduled to leave Johannesburg' OR Tambo International Airport on 31 January 2012, and is set to arrive in Beijing on 1 February. Travellers can already book for the flights through the SAA website and travel agents.
SAA will operate the route non-stop three times a week with its Airbus A340-600 long-haul aircraft, while flyers will be able to make use of the Air China Lounges in Beijing.
"SAA is most pleased to introduce non-stop flights to Beijing, China," said airline chief executive Siza Mzimela in a statement this week. "This new route is in line with SAA's strategy to expand its network to Asia, the fastest growing market in the world."
Comprehensive strategic partnership
China and South Africa established a comprehensive strategic partnership in August last year, entering into bilateral agreements for cooperation on in infrastructure construction, transportation, water resources utilisation, housing, health and education.
The introduction of non-stop flights between the two destinations promises to facilitate business and leisure travel between the two countries.
"Introducing direct flights between China and South Africa will promote tourism and trade, not only to South Africa, but also to all the Southern African Development Community and other African countries," said Mzimela.
"South Africa and neighbouring destinations such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are already popular destinations for Chinese tourists."
Star Alliance partner
Beijing Capital International Airport is the main international airport serving Beijing, and is one of the busiest airports in the world. It is located 32 kilometres northeast of Beijing's city centre.
There are three terminals at the airport and SAA will operate in and out of terminal three, which is also the designated terminal for Star Alliance partners. SAA's operations at the Beijing airport will be handled by Air China, which like SAA, also belongs to the Star Alliance.
"Air China will also be code-sharing on the flight between Johannesburg and Beijing. SAA in turn will code share with Air China to and from Shanghai, with further destinations in China to follow in the near future," the statement added.