Want to fly to China direct from Pittsburgh at a 30% discounted rate?

Here’s your chance. The Allegheny County Airport Authority has teamed with VisitPittsburgh and Idea Foundry to offer two China Eastern charter flights direct from Shanghai to Pittsburgh and back.

The first nonstop flight departs August 3 and returns August 11 for an all-inclusive economy rate of $1,098 (that includes taxes as well). Business class runs $2,980 and first class, with a flat-bed option and all the trappings that go with it, is $5,680 per person.

Christina Cassotis,  CEO of the Airport Authority, along with VisitPittsburgh and Idea Foundry, are subsidizing the two round-trip charter flights for a total of $911,000. Yes, that’s a lot of money, she says, “but the more successful this is, the more charter flights will be available next year.”

They’re banking on a long-term run.

China Eastern 777 image via Tomás Del Coro / Flickr.

Getting nonstop flights to China is quite a coup for Pittsburgh, which only a few years ago lacked direct flights to many major cities within the U.S., let alone outside of it. Since Cassotis has taken over as CEO of the Airport Authority, Pittsburgh now has 74 direct flights, up from 37 in 2014. Recent additions include nonstop service to Montreal, Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and a second daily flight to San Francisco and Charleston, SC.

The three organizations have been working on these charter flights to China for two years and are happy to see them take off. The plane is a Boeing 777.  a wide-body which was designed to bridge the gap between a 747 and 767.

“We want to open up Pittsburgh to China,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh at a lunch Downtown yesterday where they asked community leaders for their help in filling the seats. “It opens up a brand new market to Pittsburgh.”

He noted that the Richard King Mellon Foundation funded a program to help those in the Pittsburgh travel industry deal effectively with Chinese visitors. VisitPITTSBURGH brought people in from China to train Airmall personnel, hotel operators, TSA staff and others. “Our intent is to make Pittsburgh as China-ready as can be,” said Davis.

To attract more Pittsburgh visitors to China, they are offering a discounted airfare through Eastern China, along with the convenience of the direct flight. “You can’t get a better deal,” said Mike Matesic of Idea Foundry.

In addition to the discounted tickets, they are offering an “exclusive land package” through a group called First in Service, which includes accommodations and meals and transportation, including a high-speed train to Hangzhou, a city of nine million.

Hangzhou grew to prominence as the southern terminus of China’s Grand Canal and has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium. West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site immediately west of the city, is one of its best-known attractions. It’s also the city known for growing, literally, the best tea in China: Longjing cha.

They are taking reservations for the inaugural charter flight to Shanghai as of today.

Book now before the 315-seat plane fills up. And don’t forget to apply for your visa.

Note: The amount of subsidy was corrected in the article which previously stated a million dollars, as Cassotis had said. The actual amount is $911,000 as it reads now.