China air link in pipeline as Dublin and Beijing airports become 'twins'
THE Dublin Airport Authority and Beijing Airport have signed a twinning agreement which could potentially help boost the air link between the two countries.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who is in China for a trade mission, said that the signed memorandum of understanding means that the airport authorities can work together to try and secure a direct air connection between Dublin and Beijing.
In the medium term, it marks the next step in talks for a possible follow-on flight to Dublin from a Beijing to Gatwick service.
Mr Gilmore described the signing as very significant.
"One of the things that we want to encourage is direct air links between China and Ireland,'' Mr Gilmore said.
"The fact that the two airport authorities have now signed a memorandum of understanding means that the two airports can work together with the airlines to try and secure a direct connection between Beijing and Dublin.
"We are keen to arrive at a situation where there will be direct flights between Beijing and Dublin.''
More than 30,000 passengers per year fly between Dublin and Beijing. But while there is no direct service, passengers typically connect via a European or Middle Eastern airport.
DAA chief executive Kevin Toland said the signing was a significant step forward in the two airports' mutual desire to have improved air connections between Ireland and China.
"The DAA has been talking to a number of Chinese airlines for several years in relation to the potential for improved links between Dublin and Beijing and we are convinced that a direct service will grow the overall market and stimulate greater business and tourism activity,'' Mr Toland said.
The agreement will also examine the scope for commercial co-operation between Beijing Airport and DAA's retail arm ARI (formerly known as Aer Rianta International), which has operations in 12 countries including its recently opened stores in China.
Mr Gilmore's four-day trip – shortened due to the convening of the Council of State of which he is a member – will include meetings with political and business chiefs in both Beijing and Shanghai.