Next year’s World Routes host city of Chengdu could have a second direct flight into Australia ahead of next September’s network development forum, after it emerged this week that Air China is seeking permission for a licence to serve the Chengdu – Sydney market. The new route will complement the existing three times weekly link from Shuangliu International Airport to Melbourne, a route that has been operated by Sichuan Airlines since March 2013.
According to information released by aviation regulator, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), China’s national carrier, Air China has requested rights to introduce a daily service from Chengdu to Sydney from June 2016. The route, subject to final approval, will be operated using Airbus A330 equipment.
Air China is the largest operator in Chengdu and has established Shuangliu International Airport as a regional hub. Schedule data from OAG shows it had a 29.1 per cent of available departure capacity this year and although this has declined from 39.3 per cent in 2005 due to increased competition at Sichuan’s largest air gateway, it has boosted its own capacity by an average annual rate of 10.4 per cent over the ten year period.
This capacity growth has seen Air China introduce a number of new non-stop international air links from Chengdu, increasing its network to 13 foreign destinations including notable new long-haul links to Europe: Frankfurt (from 2013) and Paris Charles De Gaulle (from this year).
Around 175 passengers a day are currently flying between Chengdu and destinations across Australia, according to MIDT data for the first six months of this year. The Chengdu – Sydney market is generating annual flows of an estimated 13,500 two-way passengers with this demand being fulfilled with transfer flights from Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, China Southern via Guangzhou and China Eastern Airlines via Shanghai.
Our analysis of Sabre demand data shows that Air China last year had just a 4.7 per cent share of the market demand between Chengdu and Sydney and just a 1.4 per cent share of the O&D traffic between the provincial capital of Sichuan province and Australia.
It has been the ambition of the air service development team at Shuangliu International Airport for many years to secure additional non-stop connectivity into Australia to meet the growing demand for air services between it and China. Sichuan Airlines has been carrying almost 4,500 passengers a month on its flights between Chengdu and Melbourne since it inaugurated services in March 2013, with average loads this year of around 63 per cent.
China is now Australia’s most valuable and fastest growing inbound tourism market, and Tim Jones, Tourism Australia’s General Manager Asian Markets and Strategic Partnerships, told Routesonline at this year’s World Routes in Durban, South Africa that it is not far away now from receiving a million Chinese visitors a year.
“Spending was up 70 per cent for the June 2015 quarter, and 32 per cent for the 12 months – to A$7 billion. Under our long-term tourism strategy, Tourism 2020, we see the value of the China market potentially growing to above A$13 billion,” he said.
Supporting this growth will be the introduction of a new ten-year multiple-entry visa available to Chinese citizens travelling to Australia from next year.