Air China is giving its Sydney and Melbourne services from Shanghai the chop with both routes set to cease operating by the end of March.
China’s national carrier confirmed the move in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.
The airline’s Sydney service will be the first to go, with Air China flying its final flight from Sydney to Shanghai Pudong on March 29. This will be followed by the final Melbourne-Shanghai flight a day later on March 30.
In its statement, Air China said “changes in [its] network and capacity mean [the airline is] adjusting the structure of some international flights”. The carrier also apologised to travellers for the disruption and is rescheduling or providing full refunds to passengers who have already booked flights on the two routes beyond March 31.
The past few years has seen a surge of new routes opening up between China and Australia, with Chinese carriers accounting for the vast majority of them.
However, many of these new services have also connected popular destinations in Australia with lesser-known cities in China. In November, Hainan Airlines began operating flights between Sydney and Taiyuan via Haikou.
Air China’s move to axe two services connecting such major cities in both China and Australia is a surprising one given this backdrop, though it is not the first time in recent memory that the airline has suspended its Australia services.
Last year, Air China temporarily ceased flying its recently launched Beijing-Brisbane flights from September 2018 until January this year due to an issue of “fleet availability”, the Brisbane Times reported. The service currently appears set to resume on January 20, according to Air China’s online schedule.
It’s not all bad news for Air China’s Australia services. Starting March 31, the airline’s Beijing-Sydney service will be getting a frequency boost, going from five times per week to daily.
Australia’s carriers also have their eyes on the China market though have been notably less bullish about opening new routes.
Qantas revived its Sydney-Beijing service, which it cut back in 2009, at the beginning of 2017, but has since been relatively quiet on future plans in the country.
Virgin Australia, meanwhile, has launched flights to Hong Kong from both Melbourne and Sydney over the past 18 months and now flies daily on both routes. The carrier is also looking to launch non-stop flights to the Chinese mainland, but so far has yet to officially announce any new routes.