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Originally published February 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 6, 2008 at 3:31 PM

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Hainan Air to start Seattle-Beijing flights in June

China's Hainan Airlines said Tuesday it will begin the first nonstop service between Seattle and Beijing in June. Seattle will become the...

Seattle Times business reporter

China's Hainan Airlines said Tuesday it will begin the first nonstop service between Seattle and Beijing in June.

Seattle will become the first North American city served by China's fourth-largest carrier, which was founded in 1993 and is privately held.

With traffic from Seattle to China growing at 12 percent a year, the route is aimed at frequent travelers who now have to make connections through other cities. The 11-hour flight will shave hours off trips by avoiding layovers.

"Our region's global businesses have wanted this kind of direct connection to China, and we are only now beginning to see what the tourism element will be," said Port of Seattle Chief Executive Tay Yoshitani.

Hainan said it will initially operate Airbus A330-200 planes for the route, adding that it will begin using Boeing 787s as soon as they are available.

The new service will likely provide Seattleites their first opportunity to fly out of this city on a Dreamliner.

Hainan was one of five Chinese airlines scheduled to take delivery of a Dreamliner in June 2008. The timing was scheduled so the airplanes would be available for the Beijing Olympics in August. While those deliveries are now pushed out beyond the Olympics into 2009, Hainan could still get one of the first seven planes — and it's the only early customer with service out of Seattle.

In the U.S., the flight will connect to other Northwest markets, such as Spokane, Portland, Boise and Las Vegas, and in China it will offer connections to 40 Chinese cities, Hainan said.

Beginning June 9, the flight will operate four times a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

"Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are home to many world-class companies that have significant business ties to China," said Deng Jian, Hainan Airlines' chief marketing officer in Beijing. "We hope to strengthen the friendship between China and the United States through our world-class service."

Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates contributed to this report. Kristi Heim: 206-464-2718 or kheim@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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