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Road Warrior

China's Xiamen Airlines makes first US touchdown, with hopes for many more

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Xiamen Airlines' first flight to the United States is welcomed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with a traditional water cannon salute.
Source: Port of Seattle

When Chinese president Xi Jinping visited the U.S. last September, his first stop was a Boeing factory north of Seattle, where he toured a 787-8 Dreamliner being delivered to Xiamen Airlines.

A subsidiary of state-backed China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Airlines is currently among China's largest carriers, a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance with more than 140 Boeing aircraft (and 30 more on order) — and China's only airline with an all-Boeing fleet.

Few U.S. travelers have heard of Xiamen Airlines but the carrier is determined to change that. Last Monday, Xiamen inaugurated its first direct U.S. route between Seattle and Shenzhen, one of China's largest and wealthiest cities.

"Shenzhen is known as the 'Silicon Valley' of China, and this new destination will be a tremendous opportunity for both business and leisure travelers to experience our shared values, Port of Seattle Commissioner Fred Felleman told CNBC at a ceremony at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport welcoming the first Xiamen flight.

He added Xiamen's arrival would be an added boost to the region's status as "a business and tourism hub."