Hainan Airlines has added a fourth destination to its route network with the start of nonstop service to Cairns.
The inaugural flight, HU745 operated by Airbus A330-200 B-5963, landed at the North Queensland city a little after 0800 local time on Wednesday, after a seven-hour journey from Shenzhen.
After about two and a half hours on the ground, the aircraft took off as the reciprocal HX746 bound for Shenzhen.
The HNA Group affiliated carrier will serve Cairns twice a week from Shenzhen, located in Guangdong Province on China’s south coast and a short boat or train ride from Hong Kong.
The flights have been scheduled as a late evening departure from Shenzhen on Tuesdays and Saturdays – arriving in Cairns the following morning – and a daytime flight from Cairns on Wednesdays and Sundays. Its A330-200s feature 36 lie flat business class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration and 186 economy seat at eight abreast for a total 222.
Cairns is Hainan’s fourth destination in Australia alongside Brisbane (also from Shenzhen), Melbourne and Sydney (from Changsha and Xian). Hainan also flies nonstop to Auckland from Shenzhen and is planning to start Sydney-Haikou nonstop flights in early 2018.
Hainan Airlines, as well as HNA Group carriers Beijing Capital Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Tianjin Airlines are part of an alliance with Virgin Australia that received Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approval in June.
As part of the partnership, the airlines would codeshare on each other’s services between Australia and mainland China and Hong Kong, including flights via New Zealand and on routes within HNA Group airlines’ domestic networks.
HNA is a major shareholder in Virgin Australia and holds a seat on the board.
Cairns Airport chief executive Norris Carter said the new nonstop service from Hainan offered visitors a quicker option to North Queensland.
“With more than 80 per cent of our Chinese visitors currently using a domestic flight to get to and from Cairns, this new service will enable them to spend less time travelling and more time enjoying everything Tropical North Queensland has to offer,” Carter said.
“Hainan Airlines’ codeshare partnership with Virgin Australia offers Chinese visitors a convenient option to also include other parts of Queensland and Australia in their travel itinerary.”
Cairns Airport has international flights from Air New Zealand (seasonally to Auckland), Air Niugini (Papua New Guinea) Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines (Hong Kong), China Eastern (Shanghai), China Southern (Guangzhou) Jetstar (Denpasar, Osaka Kansai and Tokyo Narita), Jin Air (seasonally to Seoul) and Silkair (Singapore).
Cairns Airport posted a video of Hainan Airlines’ arrival on its Facebook page.