The inaugural flight of China Southern’s new Shenzhen-Melbourne non-stop service has taken off – the first of a three-times-weekly A330-200 offering that will operate on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

The new route comes nearly 17 years since the airline’s first flight to Melbourne, which took off in December 2000. China Southern today has the largest number of seats to China from Melbourne Airport of any airline, according to the airport, with flights from nine destinations in China to the Victoria capital.

“This is the second airline in less than two weeks to announce it will fly non-stop to Shenzhen, proving just how strong the interest is in the China-Melbourne market,” said Melbourne Airport chief of aviation, Simon Gandy.

In mid-May, Air China confirmed it would be flying the same route between Shenzhen, also thrice weekly with an A330-200 and on the same days as China Southern’s new service. Air China’s route is set to begin on June 20.

China isn’t the only country that is set to receive new connections to Melbourne. This week alone has seen both Japan Airlines and SriLankan Airlines announce planned flights to Australian city.