China Eastern Airlines will significantly expand its Australian footprint to 58 weekly services over the Christmas-New Year holiday period as it moves to take advantage of a 23 per cent growth this year in the number of Chinese visitors heading Downunder.
The carrier, which this month introduced Boeing 777-300ERs to the Australian market, said Wednesday it would be serving six mainland Chinese cities from Sydney. The six cities are its home town of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing, Kunming, Nanjing and Wuhan.
The increased footprint comes from a mix of new and seasonal services and coincides with the airline’s 60th anniversary as well as a celebration of two decades of non-stop flying to Australia.
The new routes include Sydney to Hangzhou , which began on November 16, and Sydney to Kunming which launches Thursday with an official function in Sydney.
Still to come is Brisbane – Shanghai on December 17 as well as Sydney- Beijing as a codeshare with alliance partner Qantas and Sydney-Wuhan, both in January.
In addition, airline will boost its Melbourne to Shanghai service to double daily flights over the holiday season between November and February and move its four-times weekly Brisbane-Shanghai service to a daily frequency over the same period. Sydney flights to Shanghai also get a boost to double daily over the holiday season.
China Eastern general manager Oceania Kathy Zhang said the airline would add an additional 3003 seats a week between Australia and China.
“China is Australia’s largest source for tourists and China Eastern Airlines is geared up to service this demand.’’ Ms Zhang said. “Our investment in new routes demonstrates CEA’s commitment to extending Australia’s tourism footprint to important secondary cities in mainland China.
“It deepens global business opportunities, as reflected by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), provides greater connectivity for passengers and directly connects two of the world’s most respectful cultures, acting as a gateway for Australia to the globe.’’
The new Boeing 777-300ERs on Shanghai services from Melbourne and Sydney offer a three-class configuration with a total seating capacity of 316 seats. The aircraft is outfitted with six first class open suites, 52 flatbed business class seats and 258 standard economy seats. All seats across each class on flights to Australia to China are equipped with personal TV, Wi-Fi and AC power ports.
Tourism Australia lists China as Australia’s most valuable market, with Chinese visitors spending more than $A7.7 billion annually and that figure expected to rise to $A13 billion by 2020.
But Chinese airlines have also been pitching themselves as a new way for Australians to access markets such as Europe.
China Eastern serves nearly 94 million travellers annually and ranks among the world’s top 5 airlines in terms of passenger transportation volume by the end of 2015. It is a member of the SkyTeam global alliance, which gives its access to 1052 cities in 177 countries as well as a global network of lounges.