Passenger flight routes launched between China's Xi'an and Turkmenistan's Ashgabat, Tajikistan's Dushanbe

XI'AN, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The first passenger flight route between Xi'an, capital of China's northwestern Shaanxi Province, and Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan, was officially launched on Saturday.

The route, together with a similar route between Xi'an and the Tajik capital of Dushanbe to be launched on May 18, will mark the complete linkage of passenger flight routes from Xi'an, the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, to the five countries in Central Asia.

For the Xi'an-Urumqi-Ashgabat route, flight CZ5085 will depart from Xi'an at 17:30 Beijing time (0930 GMT) every Saturday and arrive in Ashgabat at 23:10 local time (1810 GMT). On the return journey, flight CZ5086 will depart from Ashgabat at 00:40 local time (1940 GMT) the next day and arrive in Xi'an at 12:30 Beijing time (0430 GMT).

The Xi'an-Urumqi-Dushanbe route will operate every Thursday starting from May 18 with flight number CZ5083/4. Flights will depart from Xi'an at 19:05 Beijing time (1105 GMT) every Thursday and arrive in Dushanbe at 00:55 local time the next day (1955 GMT). The return flight will depart from Dushanbe at 01:35 local time (2035 GMT) the next day and arrive in Xi'an at 12:30 Beijing time (0430 GMT).

Most passengers on this flight route are business travelers, with tourism travel expected to rise in the future, according to Li Jiuquan, deputy general manager of the Xi'an branch of China Southern Airlines.

"There were no flights from Xi'an to Dushanbe before. With this new flight, I can conveniently travel home during my vacation," said Mi Yue, a Tajik student studying at the Xi'an International Studies University.

According to Muroj Hamidov, director of Jahongard travel company of Tajikistan, the newly opened flight route will eliminate the need for tourists to take detours, which is expected to strengthen exchanges between the two countries.

Gulshada Urazalieva, an independent Uzbek analyst, echoed his opinion, saying that the opening of flights between Xi'an and cities of Central Asia is of great significance, as they will promote economic and cultural exchanges between China and the region.

The Belt and Road Initiative has promoted the exchanges between China and Central Asian countries, said Xiong Jie, party secretary of the Northwest Regional Administration of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

As the "Air Silk Road" continues to be forged, he added that this would bring more opportunities for cooperation between the two sides in culture, business and tourism.