(7 days ago)
Virgin Australia has unveiled plans to fly direct to Hong Kong and mainland China, and codeshare with three Chinese carriers on international and domestic flights.
Australia's second-largest airline has applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for permission to launch an alliance with Hong Kong Airlines, HK Express and HNA Aviation, which owns 20 per cent of Virgin.
The deal comes as Australia's two largest airlines are eager to tap into opportunities in China, which is Australia's fastest-growing inbound travel market. Qantas last month resumed flights between Sydney and Beijing, more than seven years after it axed services to China's capital. Virgin Australia last year also flagged plans to launch services to Beijing and Shanghai.
The first stage of the Virgin's latest deal will see Virgin fly direct between Australia and Hong Kong from June this year using Airbus A330s, the airline said on Friday.
From Hong Kong, passengers will be able to connect to destinations in mainland China on flights operated by Hong Kong airlines. Virgin has not revealed where it will depart from in Australia and the service will still need approval from regulators.
Qantas and its codeshare partner Cathay Pacific currently dominate the route to Hong Kong as the only carriers flying non-stop from Sydney or Melbourne.