At a joint press conference with Tourism Australia in Guangzhou, China Southern Chief Exeuctive and President Tan Wangeng said the airline would soon begin services to Cairns.
“China Southern will open the Guangzhou to Cairns route and raise the flight frequency of other existing Australian routes this year,” he said.
“It is expected that by the end of 2015, China Southern flights to Australia will exceed 55 each week, which will draw more European travellers to Guangzhou as their transfer point to Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia.”
The airline will begin operating into Cairns three times a week from 18 December to 28 February, via Brisbane, which will increase from four flights per week to daily services during the same period.
Meanwhile, Etihad, which has a stake in Virgin Australia, opened a line maintenance base in Melbourne yesterday, its seventh in the world and its second in Australia. (The airline runs a similar facility in Sydney.) Etihad will today announce an increase in services between Brisbane and its Abu Dhabi hub. Qantas earlier this week announced a return to the Gold Coast after a four-year absence, with three daily return services from Sydney beginning in late October.
Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines have boosted flights to Australia recently. Singapore Airlines yesterday began its second daily A380 service from Melbourne, becoming the largest international A380 operator from Melbourne. Singapore Airlines’ flight SQ217 arrived in Melbourne from Singapore at 1915hrs yesterday and SQ218 departed at 0005hrs. Both flights were operated by the all-upper-deck Business class version of Singapore Airlines’ A380 fleet.
All of these moves by foreign carriers are adding to the heat on Qantas, which will next week post its first annual loss since 1995, the year it was fully privatised. Qantas has forecast a AUD450 million pre-tax loss for its International division, compared with a AUD216 million loss in 2010-11.
Tourism bodies are happy with the rush of new air services. Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) Managing Director, Felicia Mariani points out that the introduction of China Southern Airlines services to Cairns and additional services to Brisbane followed Virgin Australia’s announcement of increased capacity on the east-west route.
“These announcements, along with a range of additional and new services announced over the past month, pave the way for renewed opportunity and reinvigoration for our tourism industry. These capacity increases prove that Australia is clearly being recognised as a desirable destination for our international visitors and carriers are responding by expanding their services to key regions across the country,” she said.
Written by : Peter Needham