Starting 17 November, China Southern Airlines will fly to Brisbane from Guangzhou four times a week.

The service could grow to daily operations within two years, stakeholders say.

China Southern will operate its most modern widebody aircraft to Brisbane, the Airbus A350-900.

The aircraft will have 334 seats in a dual-class configuration, seating 28 in business class across a 1-2-1 layout and 306 in economy class in a 3-3-3 setup.

Flights will arrive in Brisbane on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 0830 and depart from the Queensland capital to Guangzhou every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 1010.

Brisbane airport says Guangzhou will be its 28th global destination.

China was Queensland’s biggest tourism earner before Covid-19 contributing AU$1.61 billion in overnight visitor expenditure. It has been the largest missing link in the international recovery since the pandemic cancelled direct flights in 2020, authorities say.

Brisbane airport chief executive Gert-Jan de Graaff has just returned from Guangzhou following personal negotiations with China Southern.

“Currently more than half of Queensland’s visitors from China are forced to fly via Sydney or Melbourne and the rest are coming via destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong. Today’s announcement will restore Queensland’s direct connection to our most lucrative market.

“No single country has a bigger impact on Queensland’s tourism industry as China. We welcome China Southern Airlines back to the BNE family, and the thousands of tourists who will follow, and the good jobs they’ll support across Queensland.”

“The timing is perfect with the announcement by the Chinese Government that it will allow travel agencies in China to book outbound group travel to Australia.”

China Southern has been the largest airline in Asia by fleet size for a long time and the largest in China by number of passengers carried.

It was the first Chinese airline to fly to Brisbane and operated there from 2010 until the pandemic closed borders. Pre-covid, China Southern carried the most Chinese arrivals into Queensland and was the largest export air cargo carrier from Queensland to China

Currently the number of passengers arriving from China is sitting at 12 per cent of 2019 levels. China is also a significant source of international students.