China Southern Airlines is devising a new strategy to boost tourism and trade between China and Mexico, as well as the rest of Latin America.
China Southern Airlines Vice President Han Wensheng was in Mexico for the inauguration on Tuesday of the carrier's new Guangzhou-to-Mexico City route, which will operate three times a week.
The first such flight, a 228-passenger Boeing 787 Dreamliner, landed in Mexico City at 8:30 a.m. local time (13:30 GMT) in the day, after a brief stopover in Vancouver, Canada.
It was welcomed on the tarmac with the customary water-cannon salute, as well as a traditional Mexican mariachi band.
Mexico and China have "very deep ties" in trade and cultural exchange, however a lack of air links between the two have hindered tourism and business flows, said Han.
Prior to the opening of this route, the only air connection was a Mexico City-to-Shanghai flight operated by Mexican national airline Aeromexico.
"We have to explore spaces to develop (the link with) Mexico City and complement the air network as a gateway" to the Latin American market, said Han.
The results of the company's expansion to Latin America should be evident within a year, he said.
He added China Southern Airlines is working with local Mexican tourism agencies to develop travel packages to lure Chinese tourists.
"Currently we are in talks with Mexico's Tourism Promotion Board, since the main goal is to increase knowledge about Mexico among the Chinese market to draw more passengers," said Han.
They also aim to bring more Mexican tourists to southeast Asia. It is estimated the new flight route will serve a combined 30,000 passengers from both countries a year.
"Business travelers are also certain to increase, spurring economic exchange," especially since the new route makes it easier and more efficient to ship merchandise between the two countries, he noted.
To that end, Tuesday also saw an economic seminar between Chinese and Mexican business leaders.
As a member of the SkyTeam global alliance of airlines, to which Aeromexico also belongs, China Southern Airlines will now be able to offer flights to 17 Mexican cities and 13 destinations in the rest of Latin America.
"In the future, we are going to discuss increased cooperation with Aeromexico to reach a code sharing agreement," said Han.
The Guangzhou-to-Mexico City flight will operate on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, with the return flights scheduled for Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.
From its hub at Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport, China Southern Airlines operates a fleet of 700 planes, Asia's largest.
By 2020, the fleet is expected to grow to a thousand planes to provide services to the company's growing number of national and international passengers.