Nonstop flights between Melbourne and Chengdu begin later this month on Sichuan Airlines, marking the first direct flights between Australia and China's booming west.
Melbourne-Chengdu flights will start on 28 February, running three times a week on board an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. In business class, you'll find standard angled lie-flat seats in a 2-2-2 layout, with economy in the usual 2-4-2 configuration.
Sichuan Airlines spokesman Tony Qu confirmed seat details to Australian Business Traveller: the 36 seats are 20 inches (51 cm) wide, with a roomy 74" (188cm) pitch, converting to an angled lie-flat seat.
Flight 3U 601 will leave Chengdu on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays at a 0030, arriving in Melbourne at 1410. Return flight 3U 602 will leave at 1610, arriving back in Chengdu at a 0030. The total flight time is scheduled for ten hours and forty minutes in each direction.
Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff is certainly keen on his airport's new service, saying: “This is a very exciting milestone in the development of closer business, education and tourism links between Victoria and Sichuan Province which is home to more than 80 million people and the gateway to a region which accounts for a growing share of China’s trade, foreign investment and economic growth.”
Chengdu is one of "China's 13 megalopolises" according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, and one of the Chinese Government's key growth areas.
On the Chinese scale, Sichuan Airlines is a medium-sized player: certainly not one of the Big Four Chinese airlines. It's affiliated with and partly owned by China Southern, the Guangzhou-based airline that flies extensively to Australia and offers the Canton Route to Europe.
Sichuan Airlines could also be angling for a piece of the Kangaroo Route pie for flights to Europe, with flights to Amsterdam, London, Vienna and Paris mooted in a report from the Centre for Aviation last year.
For more on China's airlines and everything else you need to know about business travel, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.