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08th May, 2014.

South African Airways improves Beijing flight times

South African Airways (SAA) has made considerable improvements on its flights to Beijing, which promises customers a much improved travel experience.

SAA introduced three weekly non-stop flights to Beijing in January 2012, following a comprehensive strategic partnership forged between the two countries; South Africa and China are high-profile members of BRICS, a trade grouping of countries along with Brazil, Russia, and India.

Following recent extensive negotiations with the Chinese authorities, the airline's schedule to Beijing now offers improved arrival and departure times to and from Beijing, effective 1 May 2014, with the flight departing about four hours earlier in Johannesburg and arriving four hours earlier in Beijing.

The first flight following the improved schedule will depart from Johannesburg today, Wednesday, 30 April 2014.

Flying time between Johannesburg and Beijing is about 15 hours.
The Beijing route is strategically important to SAA and the country, as demonstrated by bilateral trade between China and South Africa which has increased significantly over the previous five years.

Foreign Direct Investments have grown significantly between 2010 and 2013. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) the total trade between South Africa and China has been increasing significantly for the previous five years from R118b in 2009 to R263bn in 2013.

Tourism has also grown and China is now the fourth largest inbound tourism market to South Africa, after Germany and the fastest growing market with approximately 134,000 arrivals in 2013.

China last year recorded more that 80 million outbound travellers with South Africa only having a tiny market share demonstrating considerable potential for growth.

"The airline's network, alliance and fleet strategy form a key pillar of our Gaining Altitude Strategy, and we are continuously seeking ways of improving our network offering.

"We were therefore most pleased to be afforded better arrival and departure times for our Beijing flights which will make it easier for our customers to catch connecting flights to other destinations within China and into the rest of Africa.

"The route between Johannesburg and Beijing will continue to play a strategic role within our network strategy," says Kendy Phohleli, SAA General Manager Commercial (Acting).

SAA is also in the process of expanding its code share relationship with its Star Alliance partner airline in China, Air China, after introducing this code share in March 2012 between Johannesburg and Beijing.

"We are working closely with our Star Alliance Partner Air China for enhanced cooperation on our existing code share and interline which will expand our presence in the Chinese market.

The new arrival and departure times in Beijing will allow SAA passengers connectivity to additional cities in China," says Phohleli.

The code share agreement between SAA and Air China complements the non-stop service between Johannesburg and Beijing. The agreement enhances flight choices for customers, whether originating in Africa or China, through seamless connections and frequent flyer mileage opportunities.

This initiative is in keeping with SAA's close cooperation with BRAND SA, the South African Department of Tourism and the mission in China to increase trade and tourism to South Africa.

An initiative which is seemingly showing results, as visa applications for Chinese residents wishing to travel to South Africa increased by 20% for 2013, in comparison to the previous year.

China is one of South Africa's largest trade partners and the establishment of aviation links between nations nurtures economic activity, with domestic and regional benefit within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as many traders from Africa travel to China via Johannesburg.

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