KRIS MADDEN takes a look at what’s in store for Australia and world aviation in the year ahead.
AUSTRALIA’s position as a tourism hotspot, combined with the ongoing renegotiations of aviation bilaterals with countries around the world, has seen many airlines increase their capacity to and from Australia, with more to come in the year ahead. To date this year, Australian international passenger traffic for the year ended July 2015 was 33.997 million which is a 4.5 per cent increase over the figure for the year ended July 2014, according to the latest Australian Government Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development statistics.
Qantas has renewed its push into China with the help of a code-sharing agreement with China Eastern on the carrier’s doubledaily Sydney–Shanghai and Melbourne– Shanghai flights, starting this month. The partnership opens up a raft of onward connections to new destinations including Changchun, Jinan and Wuhan, helping the Aussie airline tap into the booming Chinese market including business travel to many ‘second tier’ cities which are hubs for manufacturing. China Eastern will also launch direct flights between Brisbane and Shanghai early next year.
Air China will increase its capacity from Melbourne by 60 per cent, with the launch of a daily direct service between Beijing and Melbourne in October, making Air China the only carrier to offer a direct service between Melbourne and Beijing.
Xiamen Airlines launches its thrice-weekly Fuzhou – Sydney service from 29 November, followed by a twice-weekly Xiamen – Sydney service from 5 December. From January 2016, Hong Kong Airlines will begin service to Australia’s Gold Coast and Cairns three times per week.
This year has also seen Qantas reignite its passion for Japan, commencing new flights from Brisbane to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport; while diverting its Sydney flights to Haneda Airport, which is in fact closer to Tokyo’s city centre. Star Alliance member ANA has also announced plans to resume services to Australia, as it prepares to add its Tokyo Haneda to Sydney operation from 11 December this year.
Tigerair Australia will fly internationally for the first time when it commences flying five times a week from Adelaide to Denpasar, and daily from Melbourne and Perth to Denpasar, in March 2016.
Qantas also teamed up with alliance partner, American Airlines, to see the US-based airline fly between Los Angeles and Sydney for the first time; while Qantas will resume direct flights from Sydney to San Francisco.
The American Airlines flights start on 19 December this year, with QF flights commencing a day earlier. The codeshare arrangements with American Airlines, WestJet and Alaska Airlines, will see Qantas offer services on a total of more than 200 routes to over 100 destinations in North America.
Star Alliance member United Airlines will resume services between the US west coast and New Zealand from mid-next year. UA will launch a thrice-weekly service to Auckland from San Francisco starting 1 July using Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft. The service will operate under a cooperative arrangement with Star Alliance NZ member Air New Zealand, which itself operates the route on a daily basis.
Further opening up the US routes, Air New Zealand will add to its destinations in the US by flying to Houston five times a week from mid-December. At the same time, Air New Zealand will stretch its wings into South America, with the commencement of thriceweekly flights to Buenos Aires.
Air Canada will start flying nonstop between Brisbane and Vancouver three times a week from June 2016, complementing its daily service to Sydney. The airline says the schedule fits neatly into onwards flights from Vancouver to other Canadian and US destinations.
Qatar Airways will begin flying to Adelaide in early May 2016 using its flagship Airbus A350, just two months after it launches its non-stop Qatar flights between Sydney and Doha on 1 March 2016. Qatar already flies to Melbourne and Perth.
Etihad Airways will commence daily A380 services between Abu Dhabi and Melbourne on 1 June 2016. The double daily service from Melbourne provides travellers from Victoria access to more than 900 weekly connections in 50 markets across the Gulf region, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Meanwhile, Emirates has flagged the potential of the Dubai-based carrier flying to secondary cities in Australia as part of the next stage of its alliance with partner Qantas. Darwin, Cairns, Broome and even Alice Springs are possible destinations which may be serviced over the next five years through the tie-up with Australian flag carrier, Qantas. Part of the original agreement between Qantas and Emirates was that Qantas consider the resumption of European cities when it receives its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, expected to enter service by mid-2019. European gateways mentioned which may be accessed by Qantas via Dubai include Frankfurt, Paris and Rome.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that airlines expect to welcome some 3.6 billion passengers in 2016. That’s about 800 million more than the 2.8 billion passengers carried by airlines five years ago. As airlines search for durable models for the future, new joint venture models, bilateral and global alliances, and code-sharing seem to be the way forward. And the number of airlines looking to make a toehold in Australia remains unabated.