A surge in flights between Australia and China – including the opening up of new routes – is expected to follow an agreement by the two countries to remove all capacity restrictions, which have previously capped the number of flights to major cities.
The 'open skies' pact, signed by the Australian and Chinese governments, comes ahead of the declared 'Australia-China Year of Tourism' in 2017.
Capacity on flights from China's largest cities to the Australian gateway cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth had previously been limited at around 67,000 seats each week.
Qantas currently flies from Sydney to Shanghai and will add Sydney-Beijing in January 2017; the Flying Kangaroo also has a partnership with Shanghai-based China Eastern. Qantas said the new deal lays "the foundations for long-term growth in the Australia-China aviation network."
Virgin Australia plans to launch daily flights to Beijing by mid-2017 as part of its new alliance with HNA Aviation Group, however Virgin has not revealed from which Australian city the flights would originate.
The open skies agreement does not however extend to Hong Kong, which still restricts the number of flights to and from major Australian cities.
Transport Minister Darren Chester says the move will result in "increased trade and tourism" while Sydney Airport CEO Kerrie Mather – which from January 2017 will boast seven airlines serving 14 Chinese cities – said "our airline partners have expressed strong interest in the potential for new services from China, building on our recent growth and our position as a world leader in Chinese long-haul routes."