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Beijing-based Air China opens fifth freedom Houston-Panama route
Beijing-based Air China exercised its fifth freedom rights with an April 5 inaugural flight of its first direct Beijing-Panama City route—via Houston, Texas—after receiving approval from the US Department of Transportation.
The opening of the route comes after the signing of a bilateral civil air traffic rights agreement between Panama and China in November 2017, which opened the door for additional Chinese airlines to launch service to the Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY), increasingly Latin America’s most crucial hub.
Air China is the first Chinese carrier to serve Tocumen. Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines is considering opening a Panama route.
Air China will operate 2X-weekly Boeing 777-300ER service on the full Beijing-Houston-Panama City route for at least one year. The airline now flies 4X-weekly service between Beijing and Houston.
The government of Panama touted the new direct air service from China for its commercial development, investment and tourism potential in Panama, as well as being a gateway for business and tourism between the rest of Latin America and China. The country’s tourism authority is expecting a doubling of Chinese visitors in 2018, driven by Panama’s status of ‘approved tourist destination’ by the Chinese government, which in turn facilitates group travel of Chinese tourists to Panama.
The two countries established diplomatic relations in June 2017. Panama has since encouraged Chinese companies to establish regional offices in Panama, to which Air China has responded. The carrier confirmed April 5 it will open its headquarters for Latin America in Panama.
  Source: ATW Online

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