The first direct flights between Dublin and Beijing will begin in June when the largest private airline in China, Hainan Airlines, will operate four flights between the two cities every week. 

Two of these services will be non-stop and two flights will stop for a short time in Edinburgh to pick up additional passengers before going on to Beijing. 

This announcement comes on top of Cathay Pacific confirming earlier this week that four non-stop flights per week from Dublin to Hong Kong will also begin in June.

Hainan Airlines is part of the Chinese-based global HNA Group, which also owns the Dublin-based aircraft leasing business Avolon. 

The new route was announced at a reception in the Irish Embassy in Beijing today attended by Tánaiste Simon Coveney and representatives from Dublin Airport, Hainan Airlines, Beijing Airport and Tourism Ireland.

"This first ever direct route to mainland China and the first Irish destination in Hainan Airlines' international network is a major achievement, which will prove transformational to the bilateral relationship between China and Ireland," the Tánaiste said.

Dublin Airport Managing Director Vincent Harrison said the new service is great news for tourism and trade and the improved connectivity will create new jobs throughout Ireland.

Two-way trade between Ireland and China is currently estimated to be worth more than €14.9 billion a year.  

The new route is expected to facilitate Irish firms and exporters with operations and clients in China, as well as China's financial services and technology companies investing in Ireland. 

Ireland is also home to more than 5,000 Chinese students attending school and college here. 

Last year, about 120,000 passengers travelled between Ireland and mainland China, with journeys to and from Beijing accounting for more than a quarter of those trips.

Tourism Ireland also estimates that about 70,000 Chinese visitors came to the island of Ireland last year, up from 60,000 visitors in 2016. 

China is the world's largest outbound travel market, and one of the fastest-growing, with trips from China predicted to grow to 200 million a year by 2020.

"We look forward to welcoming many more Chinese visitors to Ireland with this new service in the months and years to come," Mr Harrison said.