Hong Kong Airlines will expand its network into Australia with charter services to the Gold Coast and Cairns over a three-month period between January and March 2016.
The flights will operate on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays via a Hong Kong-Gold Coast-Cairns-Hong Kong routing.
Hong Kong Airlines commercial director Li Dianchun said Australia had been a “long-anticipated” destination for the company.
“Leveraging our connectivity in Asia via the international hub Hong Kong, we believe the new service will be well received by the passengers especially those from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Okinawa, Bangkok and Taipei, bringing them more travel options,” Li said in a statement on Friday.
Hong Kong Airlines will be restricted to secondary Australian destinations such as the Gold Coast, Cairns and Darwin for the forceable future as Cathay Pacific has utilised all available traffic rights for Hong Kong-based carriers to the four major Australian ports of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney under the current bilateral air services agreements between the two countries.
A recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation research note said Gold Coast was “arguably the most attractive” of the available options, given the recent charters to the popular south Queensland destination from the likes of China Southern and Cathay.
“Hong Kong Airlines will need to test the market and ensure it can gain the necessary yields, especially outside peak periods”, functioning more as charters,” CAPA said on July 13.
“But ultimately Hong Kong Airlines will need access to major markets, Sydney especially.
“Relying on secondary markets in Australia effectively means restricting itself to leisure demand, and often from low yielding groups. Access to major cities brings higher yielding passengers as well as those looking to combine cosmopolitan Australia (Melbourne, Sydney) with a nature/sun component of the trip (Cairns, Gold Coast).”
Cathay offers year-round service to Cairns from its Hong Kong hub, while the oneworld alliance member has also served the Gold Coast with charter flights during the Chinese New Year period.
Hong Kong Airlines said it would use Airbus A330-300s which are configured with 32 business class and 260 economy class seats for its Australian flights.
Airline representatives officially announced the route at Gold Coast Airport on Friday.
Gold Coast Airport chief operating officer David Collins said the new Hong Kong Airlines service would help meet the growing demand from Chinese tourists.
“We are well aware of the demand for services between Gold Coast and China, and are confident this three-weekly service will perform strongly during the extended charter period,” Collins said in a statement.
“During the last few years we have observed a significant increase in the number of Chinese passengers travelling through Gold Coast Airport and we are hopeful this will continue to grow into the future.”