Cairns will next year see direct flights to mainland China for the first time since the pandemic with the return of seasonal China Eastern services to Shanghai.
The route, which will be flown on 232-seat A330 aircraft, will see 10 total flights for Chinese New Year between 1 and 18 February. It is the first Chinese airline to fly to Cairns since Hainan Airlines ended a scheduled Shenzhen service in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
Cairns Airport CEO Richard Barker welcomed the seasonal service, which comes during a traditionally quieter period for Cairns.
“It is clear that Australia remains a destination of desire for the Chinese as international travel continues to grow following the challenges of the last few years,” he said.
“These key seasonal services will hopefully accelerate the return of visitors from China, which has historically led our inbound tourism market.
“We are already seeing Chinese tourists return to Tropical North Queensland after the resumption of direct services between China and Brisbane Airport. We continue to work collaboratively with our airport and tourism partners to enable easy access to our region and encourage Chinese visitation.”
Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) will push to turn the seasonal route into a year-round service, with CEO Mark Olsen calling it the “missing aviation puzzle piece” for international tourism in the region to rebound from the pandemic.
“We have connected with the tourism trade three times in the past year, which was well received, but to be able to make the connections with the customers via direct flights will make the difference in our international recovery,” he said.
“Tropical North Queensland was making great traction with the shift in the China market prior to the pandemic away from large groups to higher spending smaller tailor-made groups and independent travellers.
“The Federal Government’s $15 million International Tourism Recovery Program funding will ensure TTNQ undertakes the campaign activity necessary to make the flights a success.”
The flights will operate four times per week over the 18-day period, bringing 2320 total seats into Cairns and the wider Tropical North Queensland region.