China Southern’s New Vienna To Ürümqi Route

Filed Under: China Southern

China Southern has just launched a new 3x weekly flight between Guangzhou and Vienna. What makes this route so interesting is that it operates via Ürümqi in both directions. Ürümqi is the city in China I’d be most interested in eventually visiting (though the current political situation is horrible), which is why I find this to be such an interesting link.

I’m surprised this route has already launched, because I didn’t even have a clue that this was on the horizon. The flight is operated with a Boeing 787-8 (featuring flat beds) with the following schedule on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays:

CZ6022 Vienna to Urumqi departing 7:25PM arriving 7:55AM (+1 day)
CZ6021 Urumqi to Vienna departing 4:15PM arriving 5:25PM

The flight between Vienna and Ürümqi covers a distance of ~3,300 miles, and is blocked at about seven hours in each direction.

I actually don’t know all that much about Ürümqi, other than how it’s geographically and culturally different than everywhere else I’ve been in China (which is way further East).

In general I’m fascinated by the region, and as far as I’m concerned any city that has service from Air Astana, Uzbekistan Airways, and Somon Air must be pretty interesting. 😉

If this route seems random, it sort of is… but not totally. China Southern has a focus city in Ürümqi, and has service to quite a few cities from there. However, very few of those flights are to Europe — the only other one I know of is to Moscow.

China Southern is no longer in SkyTeam, so unfortunately it’s not possible to redeem SkyTeam miles for this flight. However, China Southern does now partner with American, so you can redeem AAdvantage miles. The catch is that:

  • There’s virtually no business class award availability on the flight, best I can tell
  • This is a fairly costly award given that they charge the same number of miles you’d usually pay between Europe and Asia, even though this flight is much shorter — a one-way business class award from Vienna to Ürümqi would cost 75,000 AAdvantage miles

Bottom line

This is such an interesting new route from China Southern, and I’d really like to eventually fly it. While Ürümqi is a focus city for China Southern, I find the selection of Vienna as one of the first destinations in Europe to be a surprising one.

I suspect this route will still largely be about connecting Guangzhou and Vienna, though I’m much more interested getting off at the intermediate stop.

Anyone else as interested in Ürümqi as I am? If you’ve been, please share your experience!

(Tip of the hat to @simply_aviation, featured image courtesy of G B_NZ)

Comments
  1. now that the CCP has locked everyone up in concentration camps and tried to Han-ify the region I wonder how different it happens to be.

  2. Hi Ben, long-time reader. I don’t read your blog for politics but I do think you should at least be aware and acknowledge the situation in Xinjiang right now. Concentration camps, incredible ethnic tension.

    I’ve been to Xinjiang many years ago and the places I went were breath-takingly beautiful. I’d love to go back, but I’m just not comfortable given the current situation

  3. I hate to be that person who politicizes the blog, but no article discussing Urumqi does justice without mentioning the horrific cultural genocide the Chinese government has been conducting of the Muslim population there (the ties to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc are related to this) and in the Xinjiang province more generally. Of all people, Marco Rubio has been leading the charge in the Senate on publicizing this. Please everyone look this up because it is sickening. Ben, I love you and your blog but your excitement about Urumqi while seemingly knowing nothing about this leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

  4. I’ve seen these CZ flights to Urumqi (Урумчи) in Moscow Sheremetyevo plenty of times. Let’s just say the passengers are…a fun bunch.

  5. Vienna is home to a sizable Uyghur diaspora population. This route seems to me more like an easy way for the CCP to monitor the diaspora population and who they may or may not be in contact with back home. Not a reason to celebrate in the least.

  6. Ben,

    Truth be told — Andrew, BrooklynBoy, and Concerned are all correct.

    I just came back from a 6 segment, 8.5 day trip to Aktau and Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) in Kazakhstan where I was monitoring the snap presidential elections there. It was my 3rd election monitoring mission in Kazakhstan — and quite possibly the worst election I had observed of the three. I flew on Lufthansa, Air Astana, and — wait for it — SCAT Airways…

  7. I’m assuming these are real concentration camps, right? Not the ones AOC said are at the US southern border, right?

  8. P.S. and yes, regardless of the above, everything that is happening to poor Uyghur people is mind-blowingly shocking. Even by Russian standards of horrible.

  9. On the one hand, genocide.
    On the other, flat beds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Terrible, Ben. Even for you.

  10. A Chinese city with two umlauts in the name? The rest of the comments make it seem like not a fun place to visit. Lucky, just review SCAT Airways as mentioned by @Greg instead.

  11. Btw, it’s unfair to criticize lucky for wanting to visit an area with a dubious human rights record.

    I’m not an expert on Uyghur tensions in China, but do you want me to believe that China behaves like a democracy in any other part of their country?

    For that matter, should I feel guilty for visiting (and enjoying) many Middle East and several southeast Asian countries due to their capital stand on homosexuality?

    How about countries with totally opposite views on women’s rights, religion and animal rights?

    I could go on, but I think you all get it.

    I understand the above examples pale in comparison to genocide. But unless you are getting someone else in trouble or putting someone else in harms way by traveling, you shouldn’t be shamed by your destinations political/social views.

  12. I traveled in Xinjiang in 2011 before current situation got really bad, although you could certainly sense the police presence and tensions. Ben, I think you have a mistaken impression of Urumqi. It’s city with skyscrapers and feels a lot like many medium sized chinese cities (meaning 3mil +). It’s also predominantly Han chinese, not Uighur. Turpan about 2 hours away has a higher proportion of Uighurs. And Kashgar, which is way further west (near border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) has a totally different feel from Urumqi. Really fascinating place to visit. Urumqi, not as much, in my experience.

  13. @V
    Highlighting this route may cause people to take it/fuel the economy that engages in genocide.

    None of that is worth the “free” Krug.

  14. Lucky, I’m afraid the dozens of comments above are absolutely correct. I think you should avoid Urumqi and Xinjiang to show solidarity for the victims of the ethnic cleansing going on since years ago.

  15. VIE-URC-ASB (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)- BHX/LHR/FRA (on Turkmenistan airlines, whichever route features the 777). Sounds like a good substitute to your Iceland trip 😉

  16. Sorry lucky, usually I’m on your side but this article was a bit tone deaf. Just put “Urumqi” into Google News and then come back…

  17. I’ve been to Urumqi 3 times but not since 2001. The city is of no great interest, other than in the cultural diversity there. However the areas around it, including sections of the old Silk Road, are breathtakingly beautiful.
    Each visit required going on ancient Russian Tupolevs or Ilyushin 76.
    I wouldn’t go back now ( and probably wouldn’t have gone in the first instance had I understood the extent of the repression, but my visits were carefully orchestrated to hide those issues).

  18. Ben, if you do visit, I hope you would venture out and explore rather than just stay a night or two at a chain hotel and leave. This was the case when you visited Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It really is a fascinating place worth some time.

  19. I came here to leave a comment similar to the many that have already been expressed, and am very pleasantly surprised at the responses. The Uyghur genocide has been woefully under-reported for many years, so I don’t fault Lucky for his ignorance, but hopefully his interest in visiting shifts after reading the comments and becoming more educated.

    @V – your comments about not being responsible for visiting a place with dubious human rights is a terrible take, and I honestly hope you’re trolling. Participating in the economy of a nation known for human rights violations not only provides direct economic benefit to the responsible parties to fund future violations, but also normalizes the behavior to those whom our travel influences.

    You may decide that benefits of traveling a specific (questionable) destination are worth the negative impacts of the trip, but there is most definitely a tradeoff that we all should be mindful of.

  20. You really need to be more aligned to the freedom world standard. Calling EVA air a Taipei based airline is horrible at the beginning , then you promote Hainan Airline while totally ignoring what was happening in Hong Kong at the same time. Now you prevent nothing going on in Xinjiang. Enough is enough!

  21. People, he mentioned the situation there.

    Are we criticizing every new route on Delta for serving the nation of Guantanamo Bay??

    Side note, Urumqi isnt a TWOV airport, so not the most useful for people who dont have Chinese visas.

  22. I thought that’s just any other flights started. The contents here are really, well, unrelated to the flight itself. If the cases are so terrifying, I would expect VIE authorities deny such flight, but that obviously isn’t the case. It’s really confusing how just about everything related to Xinjiang has to involve in education camps or something like that.
    Also, please don’t leave LED behind, it’s getting 787 on summer seasons as well.

  23. @X

    The majority of the world governments seems to be turning a blind eye to what is happening there, since it seems nobody wants to upset China for business reasons…

    @Alvin

    I think it’s mostly the tone and language used…

  24. For awhile, CZ was operating a flight URC-TBS a few days a week. Not sure if it’s still operating. If you go, be sure to visit Tianchi and hike up the stairs to Xiwangmu. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been in China. It’s also a good place to buy textiles.

  25. Lucky, do yourself a favour and visit the real Turkestan. Ürümqi’s ethnic population has been completely replaced (read put in re-education camps) and the result is a perfectly bland Chinese Han city. Go out there and visit Turpan, the desert oasis, take the train to Kashgar and hop off en route. Sure, there ain’t a single 5-star resort in the whole area but it’s a lot better than sticking to where Hilton or Marriott have opened some.

  26. Visiting Xinjiang as a tourist and financially supporting the businesses of a persecuted minority seems like a net positive. Boycotts of Chinese state owned corporations would be a more appropriate way to protest the actions of the Chinese government. Though that boycott would likely prevent me from leaving this blog post… Go, meet persecuted people, hear their stories, and share those stories.

  27. Urumqi airport, immigration check efficiency, rationed food kits only for “true” biz class passengers on CZ ~ unforgettable!

  28. China Southern also flies from Tbilisi (Georgia, Partially in Europe) to Urumqi with a 737. That’s under 5 hours.

  29. I have to point out genocide is the mass murder of people base on race. What Beijing is doing in Xinjiang is trying to erase Uighurs culture and religion identities through “Re-educational camps”. Of course that is a horrible, horrible thing to do but it is not genocide, maybe cultural genocide. P.S, I’m currently visiting China right now and have asked my Chinese friends their thoughts on the situation in Xinjiang,maybe unsurprisingly they are mostly supportive of the harsh measures and feel the camps are necessary for security reasons.

  30. I really don’t know how many foreigners know more than us Chinese… I had been to Xinjiang And Urumqi for several times and everything there was perfect, and we had travelled to some remote tourist attractions and there was nothing special like genocide or slaughter en route, as per the description of some irresponsible foreign media provider.

  31. I visited Xinjiang last summer and found it to be beautiful. Urumqi is basically the Houston of China, (Big oil town) and is rather boring. (Lots of malls and looks like your generic Chinese city)

    The only upside of Urumqi was the weather, which was the best I had in China. (~80°, sunny and not humid) The worst part was flying URC-CAN and nearly choking from the humidity walking out of the Guangzhou airport.

    The better places to visit in Xinjiang are south of the Tian Shan mountains where the Uygurs live. (Kashgar being the best) The Karakoram Highway from there was beautiful.

    The security situation is truly awful, but I feel like it’s the same in pretty much every other place in China, (including Hong Kong) being less obvious in other places. For yourself, flashing a foreign passport will get you out of pretty much any security check. (Although you still might need permits/a guide to leave the city, lots of security checkpoints leaving)

    While beautiful, it was terribly depressing and after two weeks there I really missed Hong Kong and Taiwan. So visit, but not for too long. Shoot me an email if you’re curious.

  32. Though CSA is no longer in SkyTeam, it is still possible to book award flights with Delta SkyMiles. So saying it is not possible to redeem SkyTeam miles for CSA flights is inaccurate.

  33. HI, what about TWOV transit permissions while in the transit zone? I am travelling from Auckland -> Guangzhou -> Urumqi -> Vienna with CZ6021. Stopover in Urumqi is less than 2 hours. Anyone has experienced any troubles in Urumqi airport while transiting only?
    I dont want to see the city, just stay in the airport in the transit zone.
    Thank you

  34. Jack’s absolutely correct. People need to stop spreading fake news as NO ONE, not even the most critical press, is accusing China of commuting genocide in the 21st century. They use the HIGHLY INFLAMMATORY term “Cultural Genocide” to confuse the poorly educated readers. Even that term is inaccurate and highly misleading.

    Demolishing old, some ancient, buildings (not all of them as unsafe as the authorities claim – I get it and I agree) with modern skyscrapers is cited as example of “CULTURAL GENOCIDE”. In reality, I would say at least 70% of those buildings in Kashgar were dilapidated and/or unsafe. This is how ridiculously inflammatory twisting and misleading these Cultural Marxism terms can get.

    I believe China’s current policies and practices in the said region are unnecessarily heavy-handed, and they should desist as soon as possible. But please stop spreading fake news.

    For those who confuse genocide and “cultural genocide” above, take some 3-4 grade level remedial reading comprehension courses instead of squandering your time and ours by promoting and spreading fake news here. It’s heinous, reprehensible and absolutely unconscionable.

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