Business / Companies

Kangaroo route hops off from Europe via China

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-25 07:16

Kangaroo route hops off from Europe via China

A Chinese staff member deals with a customer at a booking office of China Southern Airlines in Haikou, south Chinas Hainan province, Aug 15, 2013. [Photo/icpress]

A major carrier - China Southern Airlines Co Ltd - sees the capital of the Netherlands as a major gateway to global growth, reports Fu Jing from Amsterdam

Sitting in his office amid the bustle and din of flights taking off and landing at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Pang Yedong, general manager of Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines, said he expects to see more Chinese carriers using the travel hub as a connection point for long-haul journeys.

Schiphol is already an important destination for China Southern and the starting point for European passengers flying to Australia and New Zealand on its flights, with a stopover in Guangzhou.

"The long distance and the absence of direct flights have helped us fare well," Pang said.

"Most of the 14 flights that we operate every week are fully booked. What's more, a majority of the passengers are from Europe, thereby increasing our global appeal," Pang said. "For many of these travelers, China Southern flights are ideal because they give them a one-hour stopover in Guanghzou before proceeding to Australia or New Zealand."

Pang said offering more convenient services for Europeans who want to fly to Australasia has been an important growth area for the Chinese carrier in Europe. "We have realized how important Amsterdam and Guangzhou have been to our global plans," he said.

Guangzhou joined Beijing and Shanghai in granting 72-hour visa-free stopovers from Aug 1 last year. Under the rules, passport holders from 45 countries can enjoy visa-free stays of up to 72 hours in these Chinese cities if they are flying on to other international destinations.

Guangzhou is China's third-largest city and the commercial and manufacturing hub of the Pearl River Delta region. It is also home to China Southern, which is listed on the stock market in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York.

"We have joined the competition on the so-called kangaroo route, and we have an advantage because it takes less time than transferring in other Asian cities," Pang said.

"What's more, we use new aircraft in some sectors, which increases our appeal further," he said.

Pang said the carrier uses new Boeing-787s on the Guangzhou-Auckland route and operates more than 10 flights every week. China Southern has also launched daily flights from Guangzhou to Sydney and Brisbane.

Pang said the Amsterdam-Guangzhou-Australia flights are shorter than other routes. "We offer rapid transfer services which last only about one hour or so. In total, the overall journey takes around 21 or 22 hours by this route."

For decades, air travelers between Europe and Australia had to spend about 25 or 26 hours on flights operated by other airlines. The route started in 1935 with a flight between London and Brisbane. Stopovers once included Brisbane, Darwin, Singapore, Bangkok, Calcutta, Karachi, Cairo, Rome, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. The route was nicknamed the kangaroo route because of all the hops it took and the destination in Australia, where the animal is indigenous.

Pang said Chinese carriers have now reached a scale where they can compete effectively with global rivals on long-haul routes. The financial and fiscal crises from 2008 affected the profitability of other global carriers and hampered their ability to buy new aircraft.

Kangaroo route hops off from Europe via China

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