ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Good news for Alaska travelers wanting to fly to Asia - the trip is about to get a lot shorter. According to government officials, a nonstop flight between Alaska and China will be a reality as early as next year.
In a news release issued by the office of Alaska Governor Bill Walker, this flight will be provided by different airlines by summer of 2019.
The flight itself will be between Alaska and Harbin, China, a sister state of Alaska since 1992. Heilongjiang Province Governor Wang Wentao announced the year-round passenger flights between nations together with Walker on Tuesday.
"Direct flights will create an economic boost to communities across our state akin to the cruise industry's impact on Coastal and Interior Alaska," Governor Bill Walker said in a statement.
Governor Wang Wentao said, "Direct flights will enable our regions to grow even closer, culturally and economically."
Harbin itself is located in Northeast China on the Songhua River and has a population of 10.6 million. In the news release, the city was described as a UN-designated "International City of Music" in 2010, as well as home to the world-famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and Harbin Siberian Tiger Park.
Not only that, but Harbin's airport has connections to larger hubs such as Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and other Asian cities, meaning that Alaska travelers can get to those places as well, while avoiding a pointless flight to Seattle or Los Angeles before flying to Asia.
According to Walker's release, a short list of airlines are negotiating to provide the service, but none have been named yet. Flights are expected to begin in summer of 2019, with more information as to flight prices and scheduling to be available by the end of 2018.