Virgin Australia has applied to the International Air Services Commission seeking traffic rights to operate daily services from a “major Australian gateway” to both Hong Kong and Beijing as part of its newly-announced alliance with Hainan Airlines parent company HNA.
“As part of a proposed alliance with the HNA Aviation Group Co. Ltd, Virgin Australia International Airlines Pty Ltd (Virgin Australia) intends to commence a daily service between an Australian major gateway airport and both Beijing and Hong Kong,” Lee-Anne Tomkins, Virgin Australia’s head of government and international relations, wrote in the letter of application to the IASC.
“These flights will be operated with Airbus 330-200 aircraft configured with 275 seats from 1 June 2017.”
Tomkins’ letter – included as part of the IASC’s notice of application published on Wednesday – notes Virgin Australia is seeking an allocation of 1,925 seats per week on the China route and an allocation of seven frequencies per week on the Hong Kong route.
The application comes only a day after Virgin Australia and HNA announced their “strategic commercial alliance”, which is also seeing HNA take an initial 13 per cent equity stake in the Australian airline.
On Tuesday Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti had told media that his airline would begin flights to China some time in the first half of calendar 2017, but declined to say which routes would be served or what equipment would be deployed to Australia’s fastest growing inbound tourism market.
“This strategic alliance will have us jointly operating to China from Australia,” Borghetti said.
“We certainly will be flying there. Whether it is all Virgin Australia aircraft or not, let’s see how that works out. It will be a joint operation and that’s what’s important. Both of us will be promoting traffic between the two countries.”
“There is a lot of attraction of operating into Beijing for example. There is also a lot of attraction of operating into Hong Kong but that is still being worked through so let’s see.”
The IASC says interested parties have until June 9 to lodge a comment on the Virgin application.