With the 2008 Olympics quickly approaching, China is kicking things into high gear on almost all fronts. They are trying to deal with the pollution problem in Beijing (scientists are even practicing a form of weather control to induce rain), they’re sprucing up their lodging facilities for both athletes and visitors, and now Air China is staffing up and adding routes to Europe and North America, expanding their base of operations in the process:
“The Beijing-based carrier plans to move all operations to a new terminal at Beijing Capital International Airport, set to open in March. The terminal, Asia’s largest, will be dedicated to Air China and its domestic and overseas partners, according to the airline. Beijing may receive 1.7 million visitors for the Olympics, including 1.1 million domestic travelers, according to the city’s Olympic organizing committee.” (From Bloomberg)
While the additional routes and staff may have been brought on by the Olympics, the Chinese government is interested in expanding its nation’s presence in the sky beyond the Games. Until now, Chinese airlines have struggled to get a hold on the international market, and many have seen substantial losses over the past several years. However, Air China is set to join Star Alliance by the end of the year, which will allow it to sell tickets on international routes managed by partner carriers. Chinese airlines (including Air China, China Southern Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines) also intend to add 27 routes to Europe and North America by 2009.
With American, Canadian, and European airlines vying to add routes to China, it remains to be seen whether North American and European travelers will eschew their nationally-based airlines to fly Air China to the Olympics, but it’s clear that the host nation is trying everything within it’s power to attract and accommodate as many visitors as possible.