The city is home to one of the biggest Indian expatriate communities
SpiceJet, the low-cost carrier, will become the only private Indian airline to fly to China starting next week, when it will launch four weekly flights from New Delhi to Guangzhou.
The first flight by an Indian airline to the southern port city — home to one of the biggest Indian expatriate communities in China as well as the centre of the country’s manufacturing heartland — will leave New Delhi on February 8.
While much of India's trade with China is driven by the southern manufacturing provinces, Shanghai is the only major southern mainland city that is connected directly to India, through Air India and Air China flights. The Chinese carrier operates 14 weekly flights to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, from Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing, while Air India flies from Shanghai to New Delhi.
The lack of adequate direct air connectivity between India and China has been seen by officials in both countries as an obstacle to boosting closer commercial engagement, even as trade has seen rapid growth this past decade. China became India’s biggest trade partner in 2011, with trade reaching $73 billion. Bilateral trade fell to $66 billion last year on account of the downturn.
SpiceJet is looking to target the business community and will focus its China strategy on the southern part of the country. The airline is also looking into launching flights to Macau and Zhuhai, besides Hong Kong. The four times-a-week flight to Guangzhou will depart New Delhi in the evening, and arrive in the city 35 minutes after midnight. The flight duration to Guangzhou will be four hours and 45 minutes on a Boeing 737 aircraft.
Jet Airways became the first Indian carrier to fly to China when it launched a flight from Mumbai to Shanghai and onward to San Francisco in 2008. The flight was subsequently discontinued amid lower than expected load factors and after the carrier began to rationalise its routes on account of financial troubles.