A joint operation between Perth Airport, the West Australian Government and Tourism WA to attract inbound Chinese tourism business appears to be paying dividends. China Eastern Airlines has agreed to trial a service between Shanghai and Perth in early 2020.
As reported in Australian Aviation, China Eastern will send an A330-200 into Perth thrice weekly between January 15, 2020, and February 17, 2020. The flights are a trial to test the waters. If they work out, the service could go year-round.
A win for Perth Airport
It is a win for Perth Airport which lacks a comprehensive range of direct international flights, many airlines preferring to fly into eastern state airports. Perth Airport is also bogged down in its ongoing dispute with local international carrier Qantas, further putting a cap on the airport’s potential.
Currently, Perth’s only direct air service to mainland China is a four times weekly China Southern service to Guangzhou. In a statement, Perth Airport’s CEO Kevin Brown said;
“It offers great potential for both tourism and business in Western Australia and we look forward to building a strong partnership with China Eastern Airlines to ensure the trial’s success.”
WA wants a bigger slice of the Chinese tourism market
Inbound Chinese tourism is rapidly ramping up in Australia. According to recent figures, over 1.5 million of them arrived in 2018, up considerably on the 360,000 ten years ago. But of that 1.5 million, only some 65,000 headed over to Western Australia – less than 5% of all Chinese tourist numbers. It’s an issue tourist hungry Western Australia is keen to address.
Perth Airport says a single daily international flight has the capacity to generate AUD$70 million for Western Australia.
Some uncertainty over exact schedule
The China Eastern flights will be operated by an A330-200. With China Eastern operating a few variations of this aircraft type, there was some uncertainty about layout, but it has been identified as an A330-300 (33H). It was also noted that the Shanghai-Perth-Shanghai flights were not yet available for sale or scheduled on China Eastern’s website. Simple Flying verified this just prior to publication.
Perth Airport advises MU265 will land in Perth at 09:50 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday over the trial period. The return MU2666 service to Shanghai will depart on the same day at 11:50. Unfortunately, at this point, this is no solid departure and arrival times at the Shanghai end.
Rock lobsters on a plane – lots of them
It is not just tourists and commercial traffic the airline is looking to carry between the two cities. China is a big market for fresh produce with several interesting freight flights into Hong Kong and China already operating some otherwise obscure airports such as Wellencamp and Hobart.
Western Australia does a decent line in fresh seafood and each and every China Eastern flight to Shanghai is scheduled to carry 15,000kg of West Australian rock lobsters.
Delicious with butter. Doubly delicious with black bean sauce.
Given that the lobsters are probably chilling nicely on ice and not going to China to sightsee, it sure sucks to be a lobster on China Eastern. But it does demonstrate the capacity of freight to help underwrite the viability of flights on routes that might otherwise struggle to achieve profitability.
And whilst there is a bit of media and online hoopla for a trial flight that will only span one month, it is good to see an airline willing to give the route a try and local government and business giving it a push along.
We hope it goes well.