Qantas says weak demand and too much capacity from other carriers are behind its decision to end nonstop flights between Sydney and Beijing.
The Australian carrier will withdraw from the Sydney-Beijing route at the end of March 2020, leaving Shanghai as its sole destination in mainland China.
Passengers with tickets to travel on Qantas to Beijing on or after March 29 2020 will be given the option to travel to Hong Kong and connect to a Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon-operated flight to Beijing.
Alternatively, they can be rebooked on China Eastern-operated flights from Sydney to Beijing via Hangzhou or Nanjing, according to a note to travel agents published on the Qantas website.
Qantas international chief executive Tino La Spina said the decision to end nonstop flights to Beijing was in response to “what the market is telling us”.
“Our flights to Beijing have been underperforming for some time due to weaker demand as well as a big increase in capacity from other airlines,” La Spina said in a statement.
“We’ve got a strong partnership with China Eastern, so Qantas customers will be able to travel with them between Australia and Beijing and be rewarded as they would when flying with us.”
Qantas resumed Sydney-Beijing nonstop flights with Airbus A330-200 equipment in January 2017, ending an eight-year absence on the route.
At the time, the airline expressed the hope that a lower cost base, the growth in the China market and partnerships with local carriers would make the flights more successful than previous attempts to serve the Chinese capital. Further, Qantas stated in 2017 that Beijing was the 11th biggest route out of Sydney.
The current operation is Qantas’s third attempt to serve Beijing. It previously flew on the route between 1984 and 1987, and from 2006 to 2009.
The schedule for QF107/108 indicated the flights were aimed at Chinese visitors to Australia.
Flight QF107 operates as an afternoon departure from Sydney, with the late evening 2240 arrival time limiting the number of connections beyond Beijing.
Meanwhile, reciprocal QF108 is an overnight service from Beijing that lands in Sydney in the mid-afternoon, ensuring Chinese tourists visiting Australia were able to connect to other Australian destinations as well as to New Zealand.
In October 2018, Qantas reduced its schedule to Beijing from daily to five times a week.
Qantas said capacity between Beijing and Australia had increased by 20 per cent since its resumed flights to the Chinese capital in 2017 and further growth was expected in the period ahead.
This was despite international capacity into and out of Australia being flat.
Qantas said there was no change to its nonstop Sydney-Shanghai service, which La Spina said was performing well.
The withdrawal of Qantas from the route will leave Air China as the only airline with nonstop flights from Beijing to Sydney.