Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines has operated more than 270 flights between Shanghai and Prague since the route connecting the two cities opened, with the average occupancy rate being above 80 percent, an indication of the huge business potential in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The State-owned carrier said it will be supporting the major initiative by developing "a Silk Road in air," a flight network with Shanghai as its core hub while Kunming of Yunnan province and Xi'an of Shaanxi province being the secondary hubs and Beijing acting as a pivot.
According to China Eastern's plan, Xi'an will reprise its role as the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, albeit in the air. The airline has already launched long-haul international flights from Xi'an to Sydney and Moscow, with new flights to St Petersburg, Irkutsk, Prague, Vancouver and Saipan expected to debut this year.
In 2014, China Eastern operated 118 flights to 19 nations and 38 cities related to the Belt and Road Initiative. These figures grew to 128 flights to 20 countries and 41 cities in 2015, before increasing further to 131 flights to 21 countries and 45 cities in 2016.
China Eastern Airlines said that its total capacity in the countries included in the Belt and Road Initiative has increased more than 45 percent in the past three years.