Dublin Airport advances talks on securing direct Ireland-China air route
Dublin Airport has advanced negotiations to establish a direct service between Ireland and China.
Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) chief executive, Kevin Toland, recently met the administrator of the Civil Aviation Authority of China, Feng Zhenglin, as well as China's ambassador to Ireland, Yue Xiaoyong, to discuss the possibility of a direct route.
The DAA has been working for years on securing an air link between Dublin and China. Momentum for the route has been building over the past year in particular.
Last year, the chief executive of Beijing Airport said Dublin is one of the international cities he wants to connect with.
During the summer, an executive with Hainan Airlines owner, HNA, said in Dublin that a route between the two capitals is under serious consideration.
HNA management also held talks at the Chinese embassy in Dublin about the possibility of launching the route. The airline already operates a direct service from Manchester to Beijing.
Mr Toland met Chinese officials during an international route development event in the city of Chengdu.
"Dublin Airport is always exploring the potential for new services with new and existing airline customers, but we never comment on whether or not we are in specific discussions in relation to a new service," said a DAA spokesman.
Mr Zhenglin also recently met Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, in Dublin. They signed a memorandum of understanding to help facilitate the launch of a new direct route between the countries. Mr Ross said such a service is an "important priority" for the Government.
The former Chinese ambassador to Ireland, Xu Jianguo, who completed his tenure during the summer, said earlier this year that "great efforts" are being made to establish the service. The IDA and Tourism Ireland are among the State agencies that have a keen interest in seeing such a route launched.
The number of visitors from China to the island of Ireland rose 11pc in 2015 to over 44,000. Tourism Ireland expects the figure to hit 50,000 next year.
The total level of Chinese investment in Ireland now exceeds $3bn (€2.6bn), and a number of Irish companies also have a presence in China. The chairwoman of the Ireland China Business Association, Susan Barrett, said recently that the lack of a direct air link between the two countries represents a "significant barrier" to the further development of trade between the countries.
However, she told the 'Ireland China Trade Journal' that she expects such a route to be established "in the not-too-distant future".