The tourism department in Nevada has worked hard for the last twenty years to open a direct route from China to Las Vegas but it was only last week that the U.S. Department of Transportation approved nonstop flights between Beijing Capital International Airport and McCarran International Airport.
Hainan Airlines which is the biggest private air carrier in China and the fourth largest by fleet will start operating flights from December 2. Hainan has approval to operate three flights per week and has now started issuing tickets. The airline is offering an initial promotional fare estimated to be around $600 per round trip. Hainan will use its twin-engine Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” jets which can accommodate up to 213 passengers for the Beijing to Las Vegas trip.
Joel Chusid, the executive director of Hainan’s operations was in the United States recently to attend the Boyd Group International’s International Aviation Forecast Summit. Chusid stated that he had spent 25 years with American Airlines and close to 10 years with Hainan but has never witnessed any city being so excited about a new airline route being opened up. Hainan Airlines wants to operate more than three flights a week but realizes it will not be possible at this point of time due to a cap in bilateral agreements between China and the United States.
In a statement, Chusid said “We’ve discussed that with the folks in Las Vegas and we’ve discussed it with some of the elected officials and they’re very well aware of it. They do what they can, but it’s not just a Las Vegas problem. They want more flights in Boston, they want more flights in Seattle. It’s a national problem and unfortunately, nothing’s going to happen until after the federal elections. Then, we’ll see what direction things are going to go because, unfortunately, it’s a political issue.”
Hainan Airlines and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority are working together to launch promotional events in Beijing and Las Vegas. Air tour operators serving national parks in Las Vegas along with local retailers have started making preparations for an increase in Chinese tourists. Officials will look to promote Las Vegas as a destination and will not focus on the casino industry.
Beijing has taken a very strict stance on the casino industry launching an anti-corruption crackdown in Macau in 2014 that caused the market to experience a major decline. Chusid stated that Las Vegas will have to be careful in its marketing and advertising campaigns to ensure that no slot machines or gaming tables are shown. He stated that when the Chinese go to Macau, it is mostly for gambling but Las Vegas has more to offer with its shows, National Parks, and other non-gaming attractions and the promotional campaigns should focus on these attractions.