Adelaide Airport Ltd (AAL), having just achieved its ambition of securing nonstop service into mainland China, will turn its attention to targeting nonstop flights to the US.
AAL chief executive Mark Young said the advent of the Boeing 787 provided the opportunity for nonstop flights between Adelaide and the US west coast.
The potential might lure Qantas back to Adelaide, he said.
The national carrier does not operate any international services from Adelaide at present, having abandoned its Adelaide-Singapore route in March 2013.
Young, speaking outside the ceremony for the arrival of China Southern’s inaugural service into Adelaide from Guangzhou on Tuesday, said the airport was being realistic about the prospects for nonstop flights between Adelaide and the US.
Such services were probably two years away, when airlines had “bedded down” initial service with the long-distance Boeing 787, he said.
However, AAL would continue to hold talks with international carriers, including Qantas, on the prospects for non-stop US flights.
Meanwhile, he said AAL was delighted to welcome China Southern to Adelaide following about six years of negotiations.
Flight CZ662, operated by Airbus A330-200 B-6135, touched down in Adelaide at about 0940 local time, after a nine hour and 15 minute journey from China Southern’s Guangzhou hub.
The aircraft, which was welcomed to the city with an Airservices Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) monitor cross, was on the ground for about 90 minutes before taking off as the reciprocal CZ664 bound for Guangzhou.
China Southern planned to operate three times a week to Adelaide initially, to test the market, but has ambitions for daily flights on the route.
Previously the Skyteam alliance member operated several charter services into Adelaide but year-round scheduled flights from Guangzhou were secured after recent negotiations involving South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, Tourism Minister Leon Bignell and officials from the SA Tourism Commission and Tourism Australia, as well as AAL.
China Southern chief executive Tan Wangeng, who flew into Adelaide on the inaugural service, admitted the airline had brought forward its plans to serve Adelaide after the SA delegation had convinced it of strong tourism and trade opportunities.
Weatherill said the new service offered exciting opportunities for SA in attracting Chinese tourists and boosting trade with China, which was the state’s largest export market.
It was estimated the China Southern link would add about $23 million to SA’s tourism revenue, he said.
The SA Government would not reveal incentives used to attract China Southern to Adelaide, but Bignell said the government and airline would work together on joint marketing.
The government also had worked with Chinese authorities to fast-track SA produce – particularly seafood – into Guangzhou and beyond, using eight to 10 tonnes of cargo space in the A330-200 to accelerate exports, he said.
The China Southern A330-200s used to serve Adelaide service are configured with four first-class, 24 business class and 188 economy seats.
Officials at Tuesday’s ceremony said the response from the public had been strong, with initial services fully booked.
It was understood at least 60 per cent of travellers on the route were outbound Chinese passengers.
At present, the government estimates Chinese visitors generate $240 million annually for the SA economy. The target is $450 million by 2020.
China Southern is the second overseas airline to start Adelaide service in 2016. Qatar Airways began daily Airbus A350-900 flights between Adelaide and Doha in May but wound them back to five a week in October.
China Southern, which with the start of its Adelaide service now has 56 flights a week into Australia, has signed a three-year memorandum of understanding with Tourism Australia in Adelaide.
Tourism Australia noted China Southern carried a fifth of all Chinese arrivals into Australia, more than any international carrier.
Tan said in a statement the airline was looking to grow its presence in this market.
“Australia is a market we value highly where we still see opportunities to expand our operations further, as demonstrated by our decision to add Adelaide to our global network,” Tan said in a statement.