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China Daily Website

Flights to Australia prove popular

Updated: 2012-11-14 16:35
By Shi Yingying (

China Eastern Airlines saw an 80 percent occupancy rate for its new direct flight linking Shanghai and Cairns in Australia in the two weeks after it launched.

The twice-a-week direct service has only been available since the end of last month. The airline company operates 16 flights a week to Australia with daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne. There was no direct flight linking Shanghai and Australia’s fourth-most popular destination for international tourists before.

Showing confidence in Chinese’s passion for Australia, Ma Xulun, vice-chairman of China Eastern Airlines, said the airline is also thinking about adding new direct flights from Beijing to Sydney and Nanjing to Sydney.

“We’ve already got the nod from Civil Aviation Administration of China and are now waiting for the approval (for the new routes) from Australia,” said Ma, adding that the new direct flights would be available as soon as the company gets the go-ahead from Australia’s Federal Aviation Administration.

According to Dong Bo, chief marketing officer of China Eastern Airlines, sufficient demand and the make-up of passenger lists are the main reason for airline companies to decide whether or not to open a new air route.

“Generally speaking, we’re expecting a more complete passenger structure, which means we’ve got enough business travelers choosing business class, sufficient medium-end and massive low-end tourists for the new air route, especially the new international air route,” he said.

Tourism Australia has signed a major aviation marketing deal with China Eastern Airlines for a media campaign for the next three years worth $9 million. Tourism Australia signed similar deals with China Southern Airlines and Australia-based Qantas Airways before sealing the deal with China Eastern.

“China had now overtaken the United Kingdom as Australia’s second largest inbound market by volume,” said Andrew McEvoy, Tourism Australia’s managing director, adding that China ranked third after New Zealand and the UK as recently as June.

In 2011, the number of Chinese visitors to Australia grew by 20 percent, exceeding half million in a single year for the first time and contributing more than $3.2 billion to the country’s economy. But Tourism Australia is more ambitious — targeting China as its “most valuable tourism market”, McEvoy said, adding he expected 50 percent growth in 2013.

He also hopes China will deliver around 900,000 annual visitors worth up to $9 billion for Australia by 2020. To fulfill its 10-year plan, the government of Australia will spend an estimated $180 million over the next three years in key international and domestic markets in a media campaign. The total budget will be $250 million, with $70 million coming from industry partners such as China Eastern Airlines.