The emerging southwestern Chinese city of Kunming is seeing increased air connectivity as airlines launch new routes linking it with other parts of China and cities in Asia.

Low-cost carrier AirAsia will start four weekly flights between Kunming and Kuala Lumpur from December 10. Flight AK1008 leaves KL at 1325 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, to land in Kunming at 1655. The return flight leaves at 1740 and lands back in the Malaysian capital at 2110.

“As the capital city of Yunnan, Kunming plays an important part in the development of that area,” said Kathleen Tan, group head of commercial at the airline. “AirAsia is proud to be the more affordable bridge that connects the business community between Kunming and Malaysia.” This move follows the launch of an AirAsia service to the southwestern city of Nanning, in September (read story here).

Meanwhile the Chinese airline Lucky Air, which is based in Kunming, is expanding its operations from the city, according to industry website

The airline will start a new daily Kunming–Chengdu–Tianjin flight from October 28. Flight 8L9975 will leave Kunming at 0740, to land in Chengdu at 0855 and then leave at 0945, arriving in Tianjin at 1215. The return leg 8L9976 will leave Tianjin at 1310, landing in Chengdu at 1600 and leaving 1655, to arrive in Kunming at 1815.

Also being launched on the same date is a similar southwest to northeast route, flying daily from Kunming–Zhengzhou–Shenyang. Flight 8l9921 will leave Kunming at 1250 to arrive in Zhengzhou at 1455, leaving at 1545 to arrive in Shenyang at 1735. The return leg will leave Shenyang at 1825 to arrive in Zhengzhou at 2035, leave 2125 to land back in Kunming at 0005 the next morning.

It will also start a daily Kunming–Wuhan–Nanjing flight on that day. Flight 9L9935 will leave at 0745, landing in Wuhan at 0955 and departing at 1035, to arrive in Nanjing at 1130. The return leg will depart Nanjing at 1210, landing at 1320 in Wuhan and leaving at 1400, to arrive back in Kunming at 1600.

For a long time an economic backwater, Kunming has benefited from the central government’s policy of stimulating growth in the west of the country. Major industries in the city include machine tools, automobiles and chemical production. It is home to the Kunming Economic and Technology Development Zone, which has attracted a large number of advanced technology companies in fields such as biotech, optoelectronics and IT.

The city is a commercial and financial centre for the Asean-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which encompasses a population of about 1.8 billion people. This agreement has seen infrastructure links with the bordering Asean countries of Vietnam and Laos improve significantly.

In June this year, Kunming opened a new airport with expanded handling capacity.

New airport in Kunming to open June 28

According to the Kunming government website, it is now the fourth-largest air hub in the country.

Nicholas Olczak