Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis and a Greek delegation returning from a trip to China were among passengers that arrived in Athens on flight CA961 from Beijing on Wednesday, the first flight in a resumed Air China service between Athens and Beijing.
When it touched down at Athens airport, the Airbus 330 went through a water arch organised by airport authorities as a mark of welcome for the 95 Chinese passengers on board.
During an inauguration ceremony, Kouvelis said the new flight link was a "bridge of friendship" between the two countries and revealed that an agreement to facilitate the issue of visas to Chinese citizens wishing to visit Greece was signed during his visit to Beijing.
"The aim is to increase movement and contact between Greeks and Chinese in tourism, business and culture," he said.
He expressed hope that in few months Greek authorities will be able to negotiate an increase in the number of flights between Greece and China, as well as the possibility of a direct flight without any intervening stops. The current flight service first stops at Munich before continuing to Greece.
According to Chinese ambassador Luo Linquan, visiting the Acropolis and the Greek islands had become a "fashion" in China. He noted that 57.39 million Chinese had travelled abroad in 2010 and more than a million had visited Europe. Of these, just 10,000 had visited Greece, indicating the significant potential in this area.