SHANGHAI, Aug.13 (Xinhua) -- A new air route between Shanghai and Kashi, also known as Kaxgar, a border city in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, was opened Thursday.
With the opening of the new air route, return flight service will be available between Shanghai and Kaxgar with a stopover in Urumqi everyday starting Thursday, said a spokesman for China Eastern Airlines (CEA), the service provider.
The take-off time in Shanghai will be 7:55 a.m. and the arrival time in Kaxgar will be 3:45 p.m. For the return journey, the take-off time from Kaxgar will be 4:30 p.m. and the arrival time in Shanghai will be 10:55 p.m.
The first plane to fly the new air route, however, took off at 9 a.m. Thursday from Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and arrived at Kaxgar airport at 5 p.m. after stopping over in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi.
On its return journey, the plane brought 20 cataract patients from Xinjiang and three tonnes of local fruits and vegetables to Shanghai, said the CEA spokesman.
Shanghai has been designated by the central government to provide economic, social and cultural support to Xinjiang.
As part of its assistance to Xinjiang, Shanghai launched an inspection tour in April to four counties in Kaxgar - Bachu, Shache, Zepu and Yecheng.
On the basis of the inspection, the research team formed by workers from the the municipal government of Shanghai decided Shanghai would help the four counties establish agricultural service centers and expand intensive processing business.
Shanghai has also organized representatives of nearly 100 enterprises to look for investment opportunities in Kaxgar. And 35 of them have already signed investment agreements with the government of Kaxgar.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank has started the preparatory work for opening a branch in Kaxgar this September.
Industry experts say as China's central government approved the establishment of a special economic zone in Kaxgar in May 2010, the city, known for production of fruits and for song and dance, will embark on a new era of social and economic development.
"The Shanghai-Kaxgar flight service will shorten the travel time between the two cities by three to four hours," said Chen Jing, a government official in charge of the Shanghai-Xinjiang assistance program.
"The local fruit growers will also benefit from the new air services as three tonnes of fruits will be sent to Shanghai's market each day," Chen added.
It is believed that the new air service will help Shanghai better assist Xinjiang and greatly boost the economic development of Kaxgar, especially the tourism industry there.