Sichuan Airlines Prepares for Melbourne Debut

Chinese carrier Sichuan Airlines has begun selling tickets for its new three times weekly link between its Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport hub and Melbourne Airport in Australia after finally receiving approval from authorities to launch the route later this month. The airline revealed its intent to open this service in September 2012, less than six months after the two gateways announced a sister airport partnership during the Routes Asia conference, which was hosted by the Chinese city in April last year. One of the ambitions of the agreement, developed to share expertise in operations, planning and retailing and best practice in areas such as route development, was to secure this new direct service.

“China has driven international growth at Melbourne Airport over the last few years and will continue to do so. China is now our most important long-haul market,” said Chris Woodruff, Chief Executive Officer, Melbourne Airport. “With a population of over five million people, numerous spectacular natural attractions and cultural history dating back more than 2,300 years, Chengdu stands as one of China’s great cities and is now a major development hub for south west China with its aviation and transport infrastructure.”

Chengdu is one of the largest cities in western China, with a population of 14.7 million, and has presented itself as a key driver of China's economic growth in recent decades. There is currently no direct link between the two airports although Air China, Cathay Pacific and Shanghai Airlines all fly directly from China to Melbourne.

“We are delighted that Sichuan Airlines has chosen Melbourne as its Australian hub, providing Victorians with more direct flights to this important and dynamic gateway to western China,” said Chris Woodruff. “Sichuan Province is a key growth region in China. This is a very exciting milestone in the development of closer business, education and tourism links between Victoria and Sichuan Province which is home to more than 80 million people and the gateway to a region which accounts for a growing share of China’s trade, foreign investment and economic growth.”

Sichuan Airlines will inaugurate flights between Chengdu and Melbourne on February 28, 2013 and will use an Airbus A330-200 on the route, providing an additional 76,440 seats to this market every year. According to MIDT data, an estimated 13,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between the two cities in the year ending November 2012, up 16.9 per cent on the previous rolling 12 month period. Without direct flights the main traffic flows are along four corridors, via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and Qantas (31.4 per cent), Guangzhou with China Southern Airlines (25.5 per cent), Kuala Lumpur with AirAsia X (18.0 per cent) and Shanghai with China Eastern Airlines (16.5 per cent).

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…