Virgin Australia has moved quickly to lift its new Melbourne-Hong Kong service from its initial five flights a week to daily from November 12, and reminded observers that there is likely to be much more to come in terms of its China related strategy.
The A330-200 flights will continue to leave Melbourne in the middle of the day and depart Hong Kong in the early to mid evenings, but you will have to visit its website to sort out the lack of uniformity in the exact times that apply to them on each day.
That said, the emphasis Virgin Australia has put on the amenity of its long haul business class, as well as full service economy with an option for extra legroom seating is seen within the travel trade as a major plus for competition on a route dominated by Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
Virgin Australia is some 40 percent owned by two China based enterprises, the HNA Group, and the Nanshan Group. The former owns Hainan Airlines and part owns Hong Kong Airlines and the low cost brand Hong Kong Express, while the latter owns the very small Qingdao Airlines operation, together with some other charter or specialist aviation businesses.
Hong Kong Airlines faces significant access problems to the Hong Kong-Australia market because of the historic dominance of Cathay Pacific and Qantas in the allocation of traffic rights up until the present. These matters are compounded by the chronic inability of Hong Kong to provide itself with an airport large enough to deal with global demand for access to the Special Administrative Region.
All of which makes Virgin Australia’s participation in the broader market for Hong Kong flights of obvious importance to its PRC investors. Hints about the need for traffic treaty ‘reforms’ between Australia and the SAR which is Hong Kong have filled the air for years.
One day, such reforms will happen. Virgin Australia and its China investment partners are ensuring they are in the strongest position that would be sensible before that day dawns. (And of course they are keen on the non-stop China-Australia possibilities as well.)