Alaska, Heilongjiang governors announce planned Alaska-China passenger flights October 22, 2018 No. 18-133 ANCHORAGE – Alaska Governor Bill Walker and Heilongjiang Province Governor Wang Wentao on Monday announced plans to launch year-round direct passenger flights between Alaska and Harbin, China. “Alaska and Heilongjiang have been sister states since 1992,” Governor Wang Wentao said. “Direct flights will enable our regions to grow even closer, culturally and economically.” “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. “Many visitors from across the Pacific are interested in seeing the unique opportunities Alaska has to offer, from fresh seafood and fishing in summer to Northern Lights, skiing, and hot springs in winter. Direct flights will create year-round connections between Alaska businesses and the world’s second-largest economy.” Harbin is located in Northeast China on the Songhua River. It has a population of 10.6 million, and is home to the world-famous Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival and Harbin Siberian Tiger Park. The UN named Harbin an International City of Music in 2010. The Harbin airport offers connections from Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and other Asian cities, paving the way for an influx of visitors to Alaska. The six-and-a-half hour flight from Anchorage to Harbin means Alaskans traveling to Beijing will see a 70 percent reduction in travel time and the shortest international connection between the U.S. and China. The deal follows negotiations spanning more than a year, from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Alaska in April 2017 to Alaska First Lady Donna Walker tour of the Heilongjiang Province as a guest of China’s First Lady, Madam Peng Liyuan. Multiple Harbin delegations have visited Alaska to discuss direct flights and other economic partnerships, and passenger flights were a major focus of the Walker Administration’s Opportunity Alaska: China Trade Mission earlier this spring, when Governor Walker led a delegation of more than 40 Alaska business leaders across the Pacific to strengthen and improve economic relations with China. A short list of airlines are negotiating to provide the service. Negotiations are set to wrap up by the end of the year so that flights can begin in summer 2019. A final agreement detailing pricing, scheduling, and other logistics is expected by the end of 2018. PHOTO: May 22, 2018, Alaska Governor Bill Walker met and signed an MOU with Governor Wang Wentao of the Chinese Province of Heilongjiang. The MOU reaffirmed the sister-state staus of Alaska and Heilongjiang.