China Eastern opens Shanghai – Istanbul route

A China Eastern Airlines A330 taxis to the runway.
Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
By Alex Barrett 3 Min Read
3 Min Read

China Eastern Airlines announces that from September there will be a new direct route between Shanghai and Istanbul.

Surprisingly, since tourism between the two countries has been significantly increasing since 2018, this is the first time that there has been a direct service by a Chinese airline to Turkey.

Linking continents


It’s also very likely to be a popular transit hub for many flying from Shanghai. Furthermore it’s another draw for those heading to Europe and beyond using Istanbul as a stop off or layover destination.

Turkey is also a destination for which Chinese travellers are eligible for an eVisa. In the current market this almost certainly helps make it an attractive destination in itself.

The route is to be served by early morning flights. Scheduled leaving Shanghai at 0130 as MU703 on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The return leg of the journey will be at 1400 local, arriving 0530 Wednesday, Friday and Sunday as MU704.

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A proven market


As one of the latest in a series of ambitious international expansions for the Chinese airline it’s a clever move. By keeping the arrivals to the early morning Istanbul time they increase the option for people to catch connecting flights.

Shangai (PVG) and Istanbul (IST) are currently served most frequently by Turkish Airlines and their daily flight. Using a 777 to transport over 250 passengers a sector, it will be interesting to see how the market responds to China Eastern.

It’s expected that the SkyTeam Alliance partner will be using an Airbus A330-300 on the route from the get go.

Sabre Market Intelligence reported back in 2019 (the most recent figures we have) that 205,300 passengers were using this route.

Healthy Competition


Turkish Airlines restarted operating the route in early 2023 after a 3 year gap. By July of the same year it was back to a full daily schedule. A strong sign if one was needed of the kind of demand at least expected, if not yet actually present.

Istanbul Airport Is Now The Busiest in Europe

The Turkish Airlines daily route is offering 4,900 seats for the two way schedule on their daily route. Now when China Eastern Airlines starts theirs in September that will be another 1,600 seats. An increase of availability for travellers of over 32%.

Since February 2023, two-way capacity between China and Europe has increased by over 120,000 seats. It’s no surprise that tourism boards at both end of things are very keen to capitalise on this.

With China Eastern Airlines opening this new Shanghai to Istanbul route it’s another step in seeing more choice for this sector.

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