Boom in Australia-China flights to follow 'open skies' agreement

Boom in Australia-China flights to follow 'open skies' agreement

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."

Also more: Flying to secondary cities in China – your non-stop options explained

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


  • djcz


    4 Dec, 2016 02:16 pm

    Fantastic news! I shed a tear when I read "The open skies agreement does not however extend to Hong Kong" :( .
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  • fxdxdy


    4 Dec, 2016 02:17 pm

    Yes - I'm hoping the 3rd runway in Hong Kong will fix that.
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  • FLX


    5 Dec, 2016 03:55 pm

    "I'm hoping the 3rd runway in Hong Kong will fix that."
    No, it won't.

    1.  HK's aviation reg regime is separate & independent fm CAAC(China's regulator).  It conducts its own bi-lateral or Openskies negotiations with foreign nations.  AU-China Openskies has no jurisdiction over any aviation affairs in HK let alone how its 3rd rwy will be used.

    2.  Even if hypothetically AU-China Openskies does cover HK(i.e. HK's regulator is just a branch of CAAC), slot assignment decision re any rwy in HKG is still a highly non-transparent/opaque process by typical int'l std.  In fact, nations with Openskies agreements with China do not necessarily enjoy priority to increased slot capacity @ terminally congested Chinese airports(e.g. PEK, PVG).
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  • Serg


    5 Dec, 2016 09:11 am

    IMHO shocking news - expect to see more and more Chinese planes in our sky in expense of Qantas ones.
    This is another stupid agreement from our stupid government to expose Australia industry to yet another diminishing. IMHO instead of such stupid so called "open" agreement where we cannot compete simply because our living standards much higher than say in China our government should protect our businesses and our workers by imposing adequate levies on foreign product and services. All such agreement as well as "open trade schemes" and alike only means that standards of living between Australia and say China will be equalizing and not because they will earn more, but because we will earn less.
    Of course YMMV and you can trumpet that you can save yet another dollar flying by using foreign carrier and continue ridiculous mantra that Qantas "must be competitive". Just remember that this could be only possible when we as nation became earn less in average. And if you think that you "protected" because you not in aviation industry then think again.
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  • AlexT


    4 Dec, 2016 02:44 pm

    Now everyone should be on the lookout for something along the lines of a EK launch of SYD-PVG
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  • fxdxdy


    4 Dec, 2016 02:55 pm

    Really, they can do that?
    I mean, does the arrangement extend to non Chinese-Australian carriers?
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  • James Twining


    4 Dec, 2016 07:31 pm

    It's just limited to Australian and Chinese flights to and from China and Aus. 
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  • roby


    4 Dec, 2016 10:05 pm

    And also Australian airlines now will have traffic rights beyond China, potentially to Europe.
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  • Matt J


    4 Dec, 2016 05:31 pm

    Perth to China with VA!
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  • Glen


    4 Dec, 2016 08:15 pm

    I'd like to see QF Sydney to Shanghai Hongqiao (Haneda style!)
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  • sabena


    5 Dec, 2016 08:19 am

    The MOU is not on the Department website yet.However the press release of 23 January 2015 contains this paragraph:

    "By October 2016, airlines of each side will be able to access an additional three beyond points of choice (except for points in North America) and an additional six intermediate points."

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27 Apr, 2018 03:07 am


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