Tuesday, June 25, 2024

China Southern Airlines to launch first nonstop flight to Mexico City

China’s largest airline is preparing to launch its first nonstop service to Mexico City, part of a broader strategy to capitalize on the growing demand for travel and trade between China and Latin American countries.

China Southern Airlines, headquartered in Guangzhou, expects the first flight to the Mexican capital to depart on April 17, an airline spokesman said. From April 22 through Oct. 26, there will be two flights per week — originating in Shenzhen, in southern China — according to media reports in China.

The 16-hour, 14,147-kilometer (8,790 miles) Shenzhen-Mexico City flight will be among the longest regular routes in the world.The announcement highlights China’s desire to enhance connectivity with Mexico, viewed as a gateway to the Americas. The return leg of the flight will have a stopover in Tijuana.

The inauguration of this new route, despite the logistical difficulties — Mexico City’s altitude makes long-distance flight problematic as fully-loaded planes can’t draw as much power to take off — is a signal of the importance Mexico holds for China’s economy.

China’s direct investment in Mexico reached US $587 million in 2022, the highest on record, according to Mexico’s Economy Ministry (SE). Two-way trade is up 38% since 2019, representing a strong rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, as China has been sending increasing quantities of goods to Mexico.

Chinese companies have been moving some operations to Mexico in response to strained China-United States relations. Tesla’s Chinese suppliers are planning to build factories in Mexico and China’s top electric vehicle manufacturer, BYD, is soon to follow suit. BYD is based in Shenzhen.

A flight takes off from the airport in Shenzhen, China.
A flight takes off from Shenzhen, China. (Unsplash)

The new Shenzhen-Mexico City flight will be a further benefit as Chinese companies have been seeking ways to sidestep Washington while nearshoring operations to Mexico and gaining access to the world’s biggest economy.

Meanwhile, direct flights between China and the U.S. shrunk to 100 per week — down from 340 per week — since the pandemic.

The new route comes soon on the heels of Xi Jinping’s November statement that China would look to strengthen ties with receptive trade partners, and the first in-person meeting between Xi and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the APEC summit. China’s president specifically called for increased trade with Mexico in areas such as finance, electric vehicles and other emerging industries.

Mexico’s tourism sector is also likely to benefit from the new route and other potential expansions, such as the reactivation of the Beijing-Tijuana route via Hainan Airlines. Mexican government data indicate that the number of Chinese visitors to Mexico is approaching pre-pandemic levels, with 161,300 arrivals in 2023.

With reports from BNN Breaking and Reforma

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