Turkey's flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) is set to launch scheduled flights to China's central-northwest city of Xi'an, which marks the Silk Road's eastern end.
The carrier on Thursday received the necessary approvals to start the Xi'an-Istanbul flights, Turkey's Ambassador to Beijing Abdulkadir Emin Önen announced over his social media account.
THY General Manager Bilal Ekşi then said the scheduled flights to the Chinese city would be carried out seven times a week.
"The strengthening of the social, cultural and commercial relations between Turkey and the People's Republic of China will be possible by increasing mutual flights between the two countries," Ekşi said over his social media account.
"Particularly due to the announcement of 2018 as the ‘Turkey Year' in China and Turkey's potential in the field of transportation as part of the Belt and Road Initiative [BRI], we have strived to increase the number of flights to China," he added.
China marked the Turkey Tourism Year in 2018 and hosted dozens of events around the country. Around 400,000 Chinese tourists visited Turkey last year. If this number continues to rise at the same rate, the number of Chinese tourists in the country is expected to rise to 1 million in two years.
"The acquisition of the right of scheduled flights to Xi'an, accepted as the beginning of the Silk Road, within the scope of the target of 1 million Chinese tourists serves as an excellent gain for both Turkish Airlines and our country. To improve the cultural, political, and economic relations between Turkey and the People's Republic of China, we immediately initiate the necessary efforts to carry out these flights as soon as possible," Ekşi added.
On the other hand, Önen stressed the importance of increasing air traffic between the two countries in terms of balancing trade relations. "Xi'an is known as the beginning of the Silk Road. We have added a new route to the flights carried out by THY, our national pride, to China a decade later. I hope that the flights that will take place seven days a week will contribute to tourism in our country," the ambassador said.