Up until now, only El Al operated the Israel–China route. At the beginning of the 90s, the government-owned China Airlines operated between Beijing and Tel Aviv, and now Hainan has begun its operations after initial difficulties, which lasted many years.
As of now, the airline will only fly from Beijing three times per week. However, Hainan anticipates that its options will be expanded to include a flight route from Shanghai and also flights via sister companies such as Hong Kong Airlines from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv.
Furthermore, Hainan offers a more luxurious service with its advanced Airbus A200-330 planes equipped with elaborate entertainment systems, while El Al uses the older Boeing 767 without personal screens.
Chairman of the Israel Airport Authority (IAA) Eli Marom struggled to hide his enthusiasm with the expected landings. Indeed, Marom’s parents immigrated to Israel many years ago with his father and mother of German and Chinese ethnicity, respectively.
Marom served as Commander in Chief of the Israel Navy where he acquired the nickname “Chiney” because of his Chinese facial features. “It took them a long time,” he said during a ceremony to mark the new venture, “and this is a dream for me .”
Speaking to Hainan Airlines President Xie Haoming, Marom added that the IAA will do everything to ensure that the welcoming of the Chinese airline in Israel will be easy and safe and as well as ensuring, “You will be extremely busy.”
Also at ceremony celebrating the first flight, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that his ministry views China as an important source and destination. He also highlighted that due to the expected leap in tourism from China to Israel, his office intended to increase the annual marketing budget from 1 million shekels to 15 million. He further promised to do his utmost to facilitate Hainan’s activities in the country.
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said that the new flight route will serve to strengthen ties between the two countries, reduce the costs of flights for Israelis and simultaneously boost the tourism sector.
Xie also commented, stating that the airline hopes to bring a quality service line to Israel and to convince the Israeli people to visit the country. Likewise, he expressed his wish to make Israel accessible to Chinese tourists who are always searching for new destinations.
Hainan is the fourth largest airline in China and the largest private airline in China and belongs to the holding group HNA, which last year entered the Fortune ranking of the 500 largest companies in the world with eight airlines and a large hotel chain.
Last week, the group signed a deal to acquire the Carlson hospitality company, the Park Inn, the Park Plaza and more. It also anticipates entering the hotel industry in Israel.