Air China plans first class, Boeing 777 on Melbourne-Beijing flights

By Chris C., April 21 2015
Air China plans first class, Boeing 777 on Melbourne-Beijing flights

Melbournians could soon be swanning their way to Beijing in Air China first class, with the airline contemplating a swap from the current A330s – offering business class and economy – to its larger Boeing 777s, complete with first class.

Huang Bo, Chairman of the Air China Commercial Committee, confirmed the plan to Australian Business Traveller, adding that the change would most likely occur during peak travel periods as previously seen with Air China’s Sydney-Beijing flights.

China’s national airline currently serves Beijing from Melbourne via Shanghai but is dropping that connection to go non-stop from June 1, and then ramping up the route from four-times-weekly flights to daily from October 25.

“We’ll also keep the (Melbourne to) Shanghai flights as they are,” adds Yan Han, Air China’s General Manager Melbourne.

When offered to Sydney, “the demand for first class is really strong actually,” continues Yan.

“Many people, for example, are calling us and asking if first class is available on this route – these are people that would normally travel with Air China but wouldn’t, because we didn’t provide a first class seat.”

Air China Boeing 777s: what’s on board

In first class, you’ll find eight private suites in a 1-2-1 layout, complete with a 23-inch touch screen monitor, AC and USB power outlets, a private wardrobe and the option of converting the centre pair into a couple’s suite by opening the central divider:

A Boeing 777 would also bring with it newer seats in business class: still fully-flat beds as you’d already find flying to Melbourne, but similar to those you’d see in BusinessFirst on United’s Melbourne-Los Angeles Dreamliner flights.

The seats angle slightly away from the aisle for a little added privacy, although still come in a 2-2-2 layout making the centre pair ideal for an uninterrupted sleep.

Air China: Brisbane-Beijing flights?

With Brisbane already served by both China Southern and China Airlines, we asked Chairman Huang if Brisbane would be the next dot on Air China’s map, to which he admitted that “not long ago, we had a meeting with the network planning department and we talked about this topic”.

Elaborating that flights from Beijing to the Gold Coast were also part of that discussion, Huang notes that “Air China is very interested in and would like to travel to those two destinations, but on the other hand, Sydney and Melbourne represent 60% of the outbound travellers to China.”

With business class the ‘bread and butter’ of most airlines, we’re told that Air China currently fills, on average, 87% of its high-yielding seats at the pointy end on its Sydney and Melbourne flights, but that “the market in Brisbane and the Gold Coast is still quite small”.

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Beijing as a guest of Air China.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


13 Sep 2013

Total posts 115

With Brisbane already served by both China Southern and China Airlines, we asked Chairman Huang if Brisbane would be the next dot on Air China’s map

China Airlines is not a Chinese carrier

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

I never said that it was, merely pointing out airlines from the People's Republic of China ('China') and the Republic of China (Taiwan) that already serve the city.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 650

this article is NOT about China Airlines....It's about Air China...and Air China routes, and the question relates to Air by you relating your statement that 'China Airlines is not a Chinese carrier'...while true, is completely irrelevant to the question asked.

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

12 Oct 2012

Total posts 19

I am equally perplexed as S and cannot understand why Chris mentions China Airlines under the "Brisbane- Beijing" heading towards the end.

As S points out, China Airlines is NOT a Chinese airline. It is the national airline of Taiwan. That is akin to saying that Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific are Chinese airlines. Anyone who has flown on China Airlines will also know that the service standards of China Airlines are much closer to these other two than any airline from China.

Furthermore, the mention of China Airlines is of no relevance to the article. Is it a typo? The article is about Air China and if Chris is trying to illustrate the other indirect carriers flying from Brisbane to China, he might as well mention Cathay, Thai, Singapore, Malaysian etc. China Airlines only flies Brisbane to Taipei direct (by the way, so does EVA Air, the other Taiwanese airline).  

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

To reiterate the above, it was never said that China Airlines was a 'Chinese' airline, and isn't a typo as the question came amidst a broader network discussion with the Air China Chairman that included the airlines named.

EVA Air, although a Star Alliance partner of Air China, was not discussed and was thus not mentioned, although does also fly from Taipei to Brisbane, yet less frequently than China Airlines (twice per week vs. three-times weekly), which also flies to Sydney.

Now that this has been established, discussed and ironed-out, please keep comments here to Air China and its plans for Australia, as discussed in the article.

Further comments that become "overly hung up with criticising the way an AusBT article has been written or presented" will be deleted in line with our published comment policy.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 May 2013

Total posts 12

Very good points.  Whilst I'll refrain from joining the discussion re: whether CI should have been included in the above, I will say that it's always a pity when China Airlines is lumped together with the Mainland China carriers, given how different the service standards are.  The name was always going to be confused though, so they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 May 2014

Total posts 14

China Airlines is a 4 star airline rated by SKYTRAX.

Meanwhile, 3 Mainland based airlines have higher or equal rating, with Hainan Airlines being a 5 star, China Southern and Tianjin Airlines being 4 star.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 143

 we’re told that Air China currently fills, on average, 87% of its high-yielding seats at the pointy end on its Sydney and Melbourne flights, but that “the market in Brisbane and the Gold Coast is still quite small” which a deployed 777 already to sydney an a soon to be 777 to melbourne, give BNE and/or the Gold Coast an A330 (Even thought Im kind of sick of flying A330's out of BNE now)?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2438

"Air China currently fills, on average, 87% of its high-yielding seats at the pointy end on its Sydney and Melbourne flights".

Currently, Air China flies A330s to both cities and is filling 87% of business class seats on that aircraft type – not 87% of a Boeing 777, which isn't currently flying to Australia in Air China colours.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 357

I'm quite surprised that BNE/OOL market is quite small considering the number of mainland Chinese we see here in BNE, and the number of Chinese tourists visiting QLD each year. As mentioned above, the only real mainland Chinese carrier, and the only airline with direct service to mainland China is China Southern, I wonder how do those Chinese travel? SQ and CX maybe?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Feb 2014

Total posts 143

Living in SunnyBank Hills , I feel like im in China already :p .

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

16 May 2011

Total posts 113

Well I think Air China knows the market more than any of us here, annecdotal evidence may not always show the bigger picture. If the market was so big as you say all the airlines would be rushing to add flights by now.

There also needs to be a mix of premium passengers for good yields, most O&D routes would consist of low yielding passengers and thats not what Air China wants. They cleary think the premium demand isn't quite there yet and "still quite small".

Your also lumping in the rest of QLD with BNE and OOL - don't do that, CNS for example is doing quite well with its own chinese services to CAN and PVG so they are well served, by no means they are underserved to mainland China. QLD isn't just Brisbane, theres quite alot of Mainland Chinese tourist who do just Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney.

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 31

I regualrly fly from China to MEL return and I've flown every time on SQ. Their prices are competitive with the mainland carriers, but they have a better schedule and better product on board, so it becomes a bit of a no brainer, in the end.

While I'm here, could Chris or anyone else confim the policy for PRC carriers concerning using electronic devices on their flights and if it is different for domestic and international flights. A couple of times recently when flying domestic, I've been rather strernly told to turn off and put away my iPad or iPhone by a flight attendent despite it being in flight mode and cruise altitute being reached long beforehand. Seems strange given the rapid proliferation of gate to gate elsewhere. Also, not sure I'd want to be stuck with IFE for 10-12 hour flights from Australia to China.

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

It's not the policy of the carriers, it's the law of the government. 

20 Apr 2014

Total posts 93

rather odd for them to acknowledge that China Airlines serves BNE when they would only be operating to TPE and not the mainland, perhaps they have a codeshare in place from TPE?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jan 2015

Total posts 9

China Airlines actually does serve mainland indirectly without code share - you can buy a ticket to fly from BNE to at least 12 major cities in China via TPE. I fly this route regularly - BNE to TPE, then onto PVG. 

Coming back to the article, I'm also surprised that the business travel market for BNE to China is considered small, especially given the amount of Chinese residents in BNE...

26 Oct 2015

Total posts 7

and not to forget that next year China Eastern Will enter the Brisbane Market adding Direct flights From BNE To Shanghai in time for Chinese New Year which will only increase comptetion 

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