Qantas will sharpen its focus on attracting lucrative Chinese business travellers as it heads back into Beijing with daily A330-200 services as part of its strategy to boost its presence in Asia.
The new service from Sydney marks the airline’s return to the competitive Beijing market since leaving in 2009 because it couldn't make it work and comes as travel between Australia and China is burgeoning. It will capitalise on the Qantas alliance with China Eastern, which will codeshare on the flights from the expected start date of January 25.
A strengthening of the China Eastern alliance will also see the addition of three international codeshare routes between Australia and China: Sydney-Hangzhou, Sydney-Kunming and Brisbane-Shanghai.
The China Eastern partnership and a second with China Southern allows Qantas to offer more than 130 return services a week between Australia and China, connecting to a further 256 codeshare services a week on intra-China domestic routes. Low-cost brand Jetstar offers an addtional 20 return services a week into six Chinese cities from Singapore and Vietnam.
Beijing will be the Australian carrier’s third destination in greater China, building on its existing daily services to Shanghai and 28 return flights a week to Hong Kong. The new route represents an 18 per cent increase in Qantas’ total capacity into Greater China and a seven per cent increase in its total capacity into Asia.
The airline group said about half of Qantas and Jetstar international capacity is now dedicated to the Asia region, up from 30 per cent a decade ago, and it had added flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia in the past year.
The expansion comes as rival Virgin Australia has indicated it is also looking at services to Hong Kong or mainland China.
Two major Chinese groups, HNA and Nanshan, now own about 40 per cent of Virgin, and are moving to put representatives on the Virgin’s board. The election of HNA representative Nang Qi and Nanshan’s Dr Chien-tsung Lu will be put to shareholders at the airline’s annual meeting on November 16.
China is becoming Australia’s biggest source of visitors after New Zealand and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the additional 3300 seats would help the airline take advantage of surging demand.
“Australia is now at the top of the wish list for Chinese travellers thinking about where they want to go next,’’ Mr Joyce said. “There are 21 million people in Beijing alone and from the start of next year they will be just one Qantas flight away. The potential is tremendous.
“We’re seeing strong loads on our existing Shanghai and Hong Kong services, and on this new Beijing route we’ll have the advantage of China Eastern marketing the Qantas flight as part of their own network.
“We’ll be ramping up the work we’re already doing with the state tourism bodies and Tourism Australia on marketing campaigns in China to make sure we make the most of this potential. Our pitch is that if you want to experience the best of Australia, your trip should start with the national carrier.
“The business travel market is another key focus for this route, particularly off the back of the free trade agreement with China, which is increasing the amount of freight we’re carrying.”
The flying kangaroo has been on the hunt for new pilots as it brings in new Boeing 787 aircraft and looks to expand its presence in Asia and North America.
The airline said Thursday it had received more than 500 applications from Australian and overseas pilots for 170 new jobs it announced earlier this year. The jobs announcement marked the first time Qantas had sought to bring in pilots from outside the group since 2009.