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Air China opens Beijing-Houston direct flight

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-07-13 13:48

HOUSTON -- The first non-stop flight between China's capital city of Beijing and the fourth largest US city of Houston landed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Thursday, adding another direct route between the two biggest economies.

The maiden flight, operated by Air China, China's exclusive national flag carrier, was greeted with a water cannon salute at the muggy airport Thursday afternoon after an almost 14-hour voyage from Beijing.

The flight, which operates four days a week, is the airline's first new non-stop route to the United States in 30 years. Houston becomes Air China's fifth destination in North America after Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Vancouver.

Operated by Boeing 777-300ERs, the flight departs from Houston on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The return flight leaves Beijing on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The best-known passenger on the maiden flight was Yao Ming, a former Houston Rockets star.

At a ceremony to celebrate the opening of the air route in Houston, Yao recalled how he arrived in the Lone Star State 10 years ago and joked that he would have played basketball longer if the non-stop flight were opened earlier.

The new non-stop flight will help both cities maximize the benefits associated with new partnerships and greater connectivity, said Houston Mayor Annise Parker at the ceremony.

Chinese Consul General in Houston Xu Erwen, who was also on the maiden trip, said the new flight would enhance exchanges between China and the United States, especially the southern states, in terms of trade, economy, tourism and culture.

Houston and Beijing have enjoyed a strong relationship for several decades. Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited Houston during his historic trip to the United States in 1979. Houston now is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in southern United States.

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