Tickets for Hainan’s nonstop Beijing-Las Vegas service go on sale Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas Review-Journal · September 20, 2016 at 1:59 pm Hainan Airlines, the Chinese commercial air carrier that will begin nonstop flights between Beijing and Las Vegas in December, has started selling tickets. Joel Chusid, executive director of Hainan’s operations in the United States, said Monday that in his career he’s never seen as much enthusiasm for a new route as that one. “I’ve been dealing with opening airport routes for years, American Airlines for 25 years and Hainan for almost 10, and cities are excited when we come in, but I have never seen the red carpet rolled out as it has in Las Vegas,” Chusid said in an interview following a session at Boyd Group International’s International Aviation Forecast Summit. Hainan Vice President Hou Wei was a speaker at the two-day Boyd conference that ends Tuesday. Chusid attributed the enthusiasm for the route to the fact that Nevada tourism leaders have spent close to two decades trying to get nonstop service between McCarran International Airport and China. The U.S. Department of Transportation officially approved the route last week enabling Hainan to begin selling tickets. The airline hasn’t even begun advertising the three flights a week that begin Dec. 2, but people watching for the flights began paying close attention when it was announced that inaugural promotional fares would start at around $600 round trip. Hainan is working with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to organize launch events in Beijing and Las Vegas. McCarran and LVCVA officials could not be reached for comment because they’re attending the World Routes conference in Chengdu, China, this week. The 2014 World Routes event in Las Vegas is where local officials cemented their relationship with Hainan. Local retailers and air tour operators serving national parks have begun preparing for the arrival of additional Chinese tourists, but local officials will be marketing Las Vegas without focusing on gaming. “It’s sort of the elephant in the room, everybody knows it’s there, but we’re pushing everything else Vegas has to offer,” Chusid said. “For gaming, (Chinese) people go to Macau because it’s gaming, period. Vegas is not Macau. Vegas has everything else, the shows, the attractions, the national parks.” Chusid called the reluctance to market casinos “an unwritten rule,” related to the Chinese central government’s crackdown on corruption that have also flattened Macau’s gaming win numbers over the past two years. “Las Vegas has to be cautious,” he said.”You never even show a slot machine in a picture. Showgirls are OK, but slot machines and things like that are not.” While Hainan, which will fly the Beijing-Las Vegas route on 213-seat twin-engine Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” jets, is happy with early efforts it would like to have more flights. But officials said it can’t because of a cap established in existing bilateral agreements between the United States and China governing Chinese and American flying. Those agreements aren’t likely to change for awhile. “We’d like to grow it beyond three flights a week, but as you heard today (in sessions in the Boyd conference), the ceiling has been hit,” Chusid said. “We’ve discussed that with the folks in Las Vegas and we’ve discussed it with some of the elected officials and they’re very well aware of it,” he said. “They do what they can, but it’s not just a Las Vegas problem. They want more flights in Boston, they want more flights in Seattle. It’s a national problem and unfortunately, nothing’s going to happen until after the federal elections. Then, we’ll see what direction things are going to go because, unfortunately, it’s a political issue.” In Hou’s Boyd conference presentation, he discussed Hainan’s newest five-year plan which emphasizes international and domestic growth for the airline, China’s largest private carrier and the fourth largest overall by fleet. The airline has 210 predominantly wide-bodied aircraft and recently developed 170 new routes for a total of 660 at the end of 2015. The airline has an excellent safety record and is positioned to take advantage of China’s 6.5 percent economic growth. Hou said China’s infrastructure is also growing with 50 new airports expected to open within five years. The country has 51 airlines, 15 of them owned by Hainan and its subsidiaries. Contact Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta.