Air China has announced two moves which would considerably increase its presence on routes between China and the two largest nations of Australasia, Australia and New Zealand.
In the first move, Air China will launch four-times-weekly Beijing-Melbourne non-stop service on June 1, becoming the only carrier to operate the route non-stop.
Air China will continue operating its existing Shanghai-Melbourne non-stop service upon the launch of the new Beijing-Melbourne route, which means it will serve Melbourne from mainland China’s two most important international gateways.
In its second move to boost its Australasia presence, Air China and Air New Zealand are planning to create an alliance for services between China and the island nation of New Zealand.
The proposed alliance between the two Star Alliance member airlines requires regulatory approvals from the Chinese and New Zealand governments.
It would see Air China introduce a daily direct service between Beijing and Auckland. The Chinese flag carrier would also continue to codeshare on Air New Zealand’s daily Shanghai-Auckland service, which Air New Zealand will operate with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners from August 24.
According to Air China, the proposed alliance would further open up Beijing as a new market to and from New Zealand.
The airlines aim to almost double sustainable capacity between China and New Zealand, while offering other benefits to travelers such as greater service frequency and improved network connections.
“By connecting the Chinese capital with New Zealand for the first time in three years we would provide tourists and business travellers with unparalleled air connectivity between and within each home market,” says Christopher Luxon, Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer.
Air New Zealand’s planned alliance with Air China would see two home carriers with complementary strengths at each end of the China-New Zealand routes working together to drive traffic in both directions, according to Luxon.
Subject to regulatory approvals, alliance services could commence as early as December 2015, according to Air China.
On its new Beijing-Melbourne route, Air China will initially operate its flights from Beijing on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, but it is already planning to increase the frequency of the service to a daily flight from October 25.
The carrier’s outbound Beijing-Melbourne flight CA165 is timed to depart Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA code PEK) at 2:00 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from June 1, arriving at Melbourne Airport (MEL) at 3:30 p.m. local time.
In the other direction, flight CA166 will leave MEL at 8:40 p.m. local time and will touch down at PEK at 6:30 a.m. the following day, local time.
Air China will operate its Beijing-Melbourne flights with Airbus A330-200 widebodies.
With the start of its Beijing-Melbourne service, the number of flights per week that Air China operates from Beijing and Shanghai to Australian airports (it serves the country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne) will increase to 23.
Additionally, Air China’s capacity in the China-Australia market will go up by 60 per cent.