Virgin Australia will begin flying direct to Hong Kong starting mid-2017, following the announcement of a proposed alliance agreement with HNA Aviation – which operates the mainland Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines – Hong Kong Airlines and low-cost carrier HK Express. The airlines today submitted an application for authorisation to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to gain approval for the alliance.
The agreement will also see the introduction of codeshare agreements on flights between Hong Kong and Australia, as well as mainland China and Australia. Virgin Australia also announced it plans to begin operating direct flights from Australia to mainland China “in further stages of the agreement”.
Currently, all Virgin Australia flights to Hong Kong and mainland China travel via Singapore and are operated by its flag carrier, Singapore Airlines.
Virgin’s new direct Hong Kong flights will be operated by Airbus A330 aircraft, which are currently equipped with its “The Business” business class offering – . Travellers flying to Hong Kong will then be able to connect with Hong Kong Airlines’ mainland China flights.
Meanwhile, customers travelling with Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Tianjin Airlines will be able to connect to Virgin Australia’s domestic and trans-Tasman flights.
“This new alliance will be a game changer for travel between Australia and China, providing significantly more competition and choice for travellers,” said Virgin Australia group CEO, John Borghetti. “The alliance will accelerate and support our access to the Chinese market, which is Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable inbound travel market.
“HNA Aviation fly nearly 100 million passengers each year and we look forward to working collaboratively with them to drive inbound visitation to Australia, resulting in significant benefits for the Australian tourism industry and broader economy.”
In addition to new routes and codeshares, the alliance will see members of Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer and Hong Kong Airlines’ Fortune Wings Club loyalty programmes able to accrue miles on alliance routes, along with receiving reciprocal access to tier benefits. These include lounge access, priority check in and boarding, and additional baggage allowance.
The past few months have seen a slew of new routes connecting Hong Kong and mainland China with destinations in Australasia, including Hainan Airlines’ new Shenzhen-Auckland service, Hong Kong Airlines’ flights to Auckland and the planning of a new Tianjin Airlines Chongqing-Melbourne route.