Dublin airport seeking to establish direct scheduled service to Beijing


WITH A large second terminal building to be filled from 2010 onwards, the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) used this week's Brian Cowen-led trade jolly to China to try and spread its wings.

The airport manager yesterday inked an agreement with Chinese aviation services consultancy group Oriental Sky Aviation, to help it secure a direct scheduled service from Dublin to Beijing.

Doing business in state-controlled China is all about having the right contacts, and the DAA is obviously hoping that Oriental will deliver as it provides technical and financial services advice for airlines operating or planning to operate in China.

Oriental provided support to a marketing team from Dublin airport in making a presentation to senior managers in Air China and Hainan Airlines this week.

The timing for the DAA is unfortunate, given the onset of recession here and the impact of the global credit crunch on the travel budgets of large corporations, whose executives help to sustain the long-haul flights of all airlines.

That said, China is in better shape economically than most and already does about €6 billion worth of trade with this State.

Beijing has been in the top four most popular connections out of Dublin in recent years. In 2007, nearly 47,000 connected between Dublin and Beijing, 35,000 to Hong Kong, and more than 12,000 to Shanghai.

All of this travel took place via major hub airports.

Tourism Ireland statistics show that about 7,000 Chinese tourists travel here each year, a figure that should grow substantially as China becomes more affluent.

With Aer Lingus clipping its long-haul wings as part of its restructuring, attracting a Chinese airline to Dublin seems the best bet for DAA.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey last week said he didn't believe that Terminal 3, which will have a capacity for 35 million passengers, would be a "white elephant".

Securing a direct air service to Beijing would go some way towards proving him right.