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China Eastern Confirms First Africa Route in 15 Years

China Eastern Airlines is adding a new nonstop connection between mainland China and Egypt from December, marking the SkyTeam alliance member’s return to the African continent after an absence of more than 15 years.

The Shanghai-headquartered carrier previously offered passenger flights to South Africa from April 2007, operating a route from Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) to Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport via Malé, the capital of the Maldives. However, the service was suspended one year later, ending the airline’s foray into the African market.

China Eastern will make a return to the region from Dec. 11 when it commences flights between Shanghai and the Egyptian capital Cairo. Three roundtrips per week will be available on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with a flight time of about 13 hr. 30 min. on the outbound leg and 11 hr. on the return.

The Airbus A350-900 service will provide competition for Star Alliance member EgyptAir’s new Shanghai-Cairo service, which launches on Nov. 16. EgyptAir will also offer three flights per week on the 5,198-mi. (4,517-nm) route using Boeing 777-300s, with Shanghai becoming one of four points served by the airline in mainland China, alongside Beijing Capital International Airport, Chengdu Tianfu International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

China Eastern and EgyptAir’s new Shanghai-Cairo routes follow a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jingping and Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly in October. According to China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the two leaders agreed to strengthen ties and work toward “common prosperity.”

The flights also mark the restoration of nonstop connectivity between Egypt and Shanghai after a five-year hiatus. Previously, the now-defunct Cairo-based charter carrier Air Leisure operated weekly flights using A330-200s between Aswan International Airport and PVG, until suspending its operations in October 2018.

In September, China Eastern outlined its growth plans for the next decade, mapping out an intention to open more than 40 regional and long-haul routes from Shanghai. The destinations listed by the carrier include Cairo and Johannesburg in Africa, as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hanoi, Vietnam, and Manchester, England, among others.

The airline’s international network spans 61 destinations in 31 countries at present, compared with 80 cities in 33 countries at this time in 2019. Overall international capacity is currently about 70% of pre-pandemic levels, data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows.

Other new international routes set to launch in the coming weeks include a 3X-weekly Jinan-Sydney service using A330-200 equipment from Nov. 28, and a daily Beijing Daxing-Tokyo Haneda route aboard A321s from Dec. 1.

By the start of 2024, analysis of OAG data shows that China Eastern’s international capacity will be back to about 77% of pre-COVID levels, putting it ahead of counterparts Air China and China Southern Airlines on 74% and 67%, respectively.

Source : Aviation Week