CHENGDU, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- An Air China airliner carrying 32 passengers and 17 tonnes of cargo took off in southwest China's Chengdu at 1:45 a.m. Beijing time Friday, and landed in Frankfurt in Germany at 5:37 a.m. local time.
It marks the first intercontinental direct flight that has resumed operation in southwest China after suspension due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The air route linking the European air hub and southwest China's biggest airport was reopened following a 21-day suspension due to the epidemic, with two round trips scheduled every Tuesday and Friday.
Liu Feng was among the first batch of passengers. He could not wait to reunite with his family in Frankfurt after a prolonged delay.
"Many international flights have been grounded amid the epidemic. I immediately booked the ticket as soon as the flight resumed. It's much more convenient than transferring via Beijing," said Liu.
The airlines also rolled out a slew of epidemic prevention and control measures to ensure smooth operation. Thorough disinfection of the cabin is conducted before taking off and passengers sit scattered on the flight.
The last three rows of seats on the right-hand side were set as an isolation area in case anyone on board is found with or suspected of COVID-19 symptoms.
"We will also take body temperatures for passengers and assist them in filling in the health declaration forms," said Li Ting, a cabin crew. "We'll report to the Frankfurt Airport in a timely manner if there's a situation."
The reopening of the air route is also of great significance to cargo transportation, as Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, is home to many major export-oriented processing companies.
The 17 tonnes of cargo carried by the plane include electronic products, mechanical and auto parts and shoes that were all made in Chengdu, as well as products from the southern and southeastern parts of China.
"The grounding of many international flights has blocked the exports of products and the imports of some raw materials and anti-epidemic materials," said Jia Bin, general manager of West China Airfreight Gateway of Sinotrans Global E-commerce Logistics Corporation.
Data from the port and logistics office of Chengdu showed that 54 of Chengdu's 75 regular international (regional) direct flights had suspended operation as of Feb. 20 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. This has brought great challenges to Chengdu's foreign exchanges, international air transport and normal operation of the industrial supply chain.
"The reopening of the flight will help enterprises resume work and production and also provide logistics support for the global industry chain," said Jia.