Flying from Alaska to China could be much quicker by next year, according to a release from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s office. 

After more than a year of negotiations, Heilongjiang Province Gov. Wang Wentao and Gov. Walker announced their plans Monday to start flights from Alaska to Harbin, China year-round as soon as summer 2019.

“Alaska and Heilongjiang have been sister states since 1992,” Wentao said. “Direct flights will enable our regions to grow even closer, culturally and economically.”

Harbin sits along the Songhua River in northeast China. From there, passengers can connect to Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo and other hubs in Asia.

Walker's office says taking a six-and-a-half-hour flight from Anchorage to Harbin is the shortest international connection between the U.S. and China and would allow people to travel from Anchorage to Beijing about 70 percent quicker.

"For existing travel for Alaskans getting to Aisa, they have to go from Anchorage and fly down to Seattle or L.A. and then you fly back over Anchorage to get yourself to Asia," said Ted Stevens International Airports spokesman Jim Szczesniak. "Now, with the new flight, what you can do is go Anchorage directly into northern China and then from there you can go to Tokyo and anywhere you need to go in Asia again it's going to reduce travel time for passengers for about 70 percent."

Alaska's governor also says the new routes will also boost the state's economy, 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.”

Several airlines are in discussions about providing the routes. If those negotiations are complete by the end of 2018, the governor’s office says flights could begin by summer 2019.

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