UPDATE | Having finally launched non-stop Melbourne-Shenzhen flights on June 20 following a string of earlier delays and cancellations, Air China is one again axing its Melbourne-Shenzhen flights, with the service to wrap next month – less than six weeks after it began.
Air China's final flight from Shenzhen (CA767) will depart on July 30 2017, with flight CA768 leaving Melbourne for the last time on the same date and reaching Shenzhen on July 31.
A spokesperson for the airline would only tell Australian Business Traveller that this was due to "Air China network capacity adjustment", but would not respond to questions seeking assurances that the remaining scheduled flights on this route throughout June and July would proceed as planned.
Air China's termination of these flights comes as its rival China Southern Airlines commenced its own year-round Melbourne-Shenzhen services this month.
PREVIOUS, March 15 2017 | Air China is moving full steam ahead to get its Melbourne-Shenzhen flights off the ground with plans to launch a non-stop service as of next month.
Despite previously delaying and then subsequently cancelling its entry on this route, an Air China spokesperson affirms to Australian Business Traveller that June 20 2017 "will be the commencement date of this new service".
Air China's original plans of offering four flights each week have been scaled back to three flights instead, however – departing both cities on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays – with these flights now on sale via travel agents and the airline's website.
CA768 will be wheels-up from Melbourne at 9pm on those days to reach Shenzhen at 4:25am the following morning, well before the Chinese business day begins.
On the way home, CA767 takes wing at 12:55am for a midday touchdown in the Victorian capital on the same calendar day.
All flights will use an Airbus A330 aircraft with business class delivered over five rows in a 2-2-2 layout...
... and while direct (and uninterrupted) aisle access isn't offered to all travellers, the seats at least transform into fully-flat beds for those overnight flights – as seen already on Air China's other Australian routes:
AusBT review: Air China Airbus A330 business class, Melbourne-Shanghai
The airline's spokesperson attributed the previous delays to "external operational reasons", but was confident that these flights would take place as scheduled, complementing Air China's existing services from Melbourne to both Beijing and Shanghai.
PREVIOUS, December 9 2016 | Air China has iced its plans for non-stop flights between Melbourne and Shenzhen.
The direct Melbourne-Shenzhen service was first slated to begin in October 2016 with four Airbus A330 flights a week, however the Star Alliance member subsequently pushed the launch back to January 9 2017.
The latest twist saw the route removed entirely from the airline’s reservation and scheduling systems earlier this week, with all flights on this route throughout 2017 withdrawn from sale – and no hint as to when or indeed, if, they're to reappear.
When contacted by Australian Business Traveller, an Air China spokesperson advised only that they were “not in the position to comment on this at the moment.”
The spokesperson was unable to clarify whether the airline’s plans for this route had been cancelled completely or simply delayed once more.
Air China’s new Sydney-Chengdu flights will continue as scheduled, as will the Chinese flag carrier’s other services to Sydney and Melbourne.