Also, the carrier plans to launch direct flights to Chengdu without transiting in Nanning, said Hu Pingshu, vice director-general for commercial of Sichuan Airlines Co. Ltd He described the route as good with average seat occupancy of 70 percent.

"We will open daily flights when the average seat occupancy reaches 80 percent. We expect to increase our flights to 3 or 4 per week before starting daily flights," said Hu.

There are currently two weekly flights using Airbus planes between HCM City and Chengdu of Sichuan Province every Monday and Thursday.

Chengdu is the hub of famous Chinese tourism destinations such as Leshan Giant Budda, Mount Emei, the Golden Summit, and Jiuzhaigou Valley. It is also the gateway to Tibet.

Before the HCM City-Nanning-Chengdu route was launched, passengers had to stop over in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai or Nannning before going on to Chengdu.

Hu said the passengers of the air route are mostly Chinese, so the airline wants to boost the number of Vietnamese tourists. "We are providing discount air fares for tour operators sending visitors to Chengdu."

Previously, Sichuan's Tourism Promotion Bureau and Vietnam National Administration of Tourism have signed a memorandum of cooperation in bilateral tourism promotion.

The Saigon Times Daily - Decembre 2, 2011