China Southern To Resume Airbus A380 Flights To Sydney

China Southern Airlines has resumed A380 services to Sydney. The big Guangzhou-based airline once offered multiple daily services to Sydney, most using the A380s. Now, China Southern Airlines is down to one flight a week. That flight had lately been operated by Airbus A350-900 aircraft. But last weekend, China Southern began using one of its A380s again.

The China Southern Airlines A380 in Sydney last weekend. Photo: Getty Images

China Southern Airlines is down to a weekly Sydney flight

Like all Chinese airlines with international networks, China Southern Airlines is only allowed to fly once a week on each of its international routes. The Chinese Government sets that rule under a so-called “Five One” policy administered by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

At the other end of this route, the Australian Government has capped the number of passengers allowed to arrive in the country each week. Just 3,035 passengers are allowed to fly to Australia on scheduled airline flights each week. Of that number, 1,505 passengers can arrive in Sydney.

Consequently, airlines are restricted to flying very few passengers. Around one-third of flights into Sydney are being what’s termed “zeroed out,” meaning they are not allowed to fly any passengers in. The remaining flights are allowed to land with around two dozen passengers.

Into this decidedly airline unfriendly environment, China Southern Airlines is up gauging its Sydney flights. China Southern’s regular Saturday evening flight from Guangzhou (CAN) to Sydney (SYD), CZ325, resumed using A380s last weekend. After a few hours on the ground, the plane turns around and operates CZ326 back to CAN.

According to a news brief posted on Australia’s Corporate Travel Community on Tuesday, China Southern confirmed this is a permanent change via its WeChat account.

China Southern Daxing
A China Southern Airbus A380. Photo: Getty Images

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China Southern A380 goes to Sydney despite very light passenger loads

Once a hub for A380s and seeing up to four China Southern flights a day, the weekly A380 from Guangzhou is now the only regular A380 service into Sydney.

Sydney Airport handled just 88,000 international passengers in May, down 93.2% on May 2019 passenger numbers. In May, Chinese nationals comprised the third-largest passenger pool passing through the airport, but the number of Chinese passengers is down 92.2% for the year to date.

The most recent official Australian Government airline activity statistics covers April 2021. In that month, China Southern Airlines carried 97 passengers into Australia and 2,355 passengers back to Guangzhou. China Southern operated 16 return flights to Australia in April.

It begs the question of why China Southern would bother sending an A380 down to SYD. Strong cargo demand between China and Australia is one key reason. There is an undersupply of cargo capacity between the two countries. That’s driving up cargo prices and leading to longer delivery times. But it means the cargo holds of those planes flying between the two countries are bulging and provides much-needed revenue for airlines.

China Southern is reconsidering the A380’s place in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Melbourne also seeing weekly China Southern A380s

According to airline database ch-aviation, China Southern Airlines has four of its five A380s in the air. Interestingly, a China Southern A380 registered as B6136 has landed in Melbourne (MEL) on Wednesday morning, having operated CZ343 down from Guangzhou.

According to China Southern’s published July schedules, the airline continues to operate a weekly flight to Melbourne (CZ343/CZ344). While yesterday’s Corporate Travel Community news brief did not mention Melbourne A380 flights, aircraft activity data shows B6136 heading down to Melbourne every week over the last month.

Sources inform Simple Flying flights into Melbourne can now bring in around one dozen passengers each. Tuesday’s China Southern flight to Melbourne carried 14 passengers and 23,000 kilograms of freight. Given China Southern A380s can fly over 500 passengers, those 14 passengers had plenty of room to stretch out while they contemplate the upcoming delights of the 14-day hotel quarantine in Melbourne.