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Foreign airlines boost coverage in western areas

By Wang Wen  (China Daily)

08:44, December 21, 2012

Foreign airlines are expanding their route networks in western China in response to the strong economy and increasing passenger demand there.

British Airways Plc, which is based in London's Heathrow Airport, said on Wednesday it will launch a non-stop route between London and Chengdu, Sichuan province, in September 2013.

By the end of the decade, the carrier will also fly to at least other four or five cities in China, said Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of the International Airlines Group, BA's parent company.

The carrier will run three flights weekly on the Chengdu-London route, using Boeing 777 airplanes with four cabins.

And BA plans to increase the frequency to five flights a week in 2014, said Walsh.

"We are confident that the new route will prove popular with customers traveling between the two major economic hubs," said Walsh.

His confidence is supported by Chengdu's rapid economic growth, he said.

It took BA over seven years after choosing Shanghai as its third Chinese destination to select Chengdu as the fourth one, while other foreign airlines expanded in a more aggressive way in the Chinese market.

The fact that BA is based in Heathrow, one of the world's busiest airport, limited its expansion potential in China, said Walsh. After it bought British Midland Airways Ltd in April, IAG got more slots in Heathrow, which gave it the opportunity to expand, he added.

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