SYDNEY, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Australia’s biggest airline Qantas Airways Ltd said on Thursday it will restart daily non-stop flights from Sydney to Beijing for the first time since 2009, a move designed to tap into surging Chinese tourism.
Flights on the new route, one per day in each direction, are subject to regulatory approval, Qantas said, but are scheduled to begin in January 2017. They will be code-shared with China Eastern.
China is Australia’s leading source of tourists by visitor spend, government figures show, and no.2 by arrivals at Sydney. The number of visitors from China grew 23 percent to 1.1 million over the year to June 2016, equal fastest with Taiwan, according to Australian government tourism research.
“Australia is now at the top of the wish list for Chinese travellers thinking about where they want to go next,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said in a statement.
The airline cut the route in 2009 amid sagging demand following the global financial crisis.
It re-enters a market crowded with Chinese carriers, including Air China Ltd as well as China Eastern, which last month both announced new direct routes from Sydney to Chengdu, in China’s midwest, and Hangzhou, in the east, respectively.
Qantas last month also revived direct flights between Melbourne and Tokyo, in response to rebounding tourism flows to and from Japan. (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)