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.
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