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Sydney Airport will put another notch in its Asian airline belt when China's Sichuan Airlines begins twice weekly flights between Sydney and Chongqing on December 20.
It's the second Australian route for Sichuan Airlines, which in February this year launched a direct Melbourne-Chengdu service.
While the Sydney and Melbourne flights each reach into a different city in the Sichuan province, they both tap into China's booming southwestern region.
Chongqing is a major manufacturing centre, transportation hub and one of China’s emerging megacities. With around 30
Sichuan Airlines' Sydney-Chongqing flight 3U606 will leave Sydney at 9.45pm every Friday and Tuesday to arrive into Chongqing at 4.45am the next morning, with a connecting flight to Chengdu, located some 280km to the west.
The 3U605 return leg will depart Chongqing at 1am to reach Sydney at 2pm that same day.
The Sydney-Chongqing flights will run on an Airbus A330 with 36 angled lie-flat business class seats in a 2-2-2 layout. Each seat is 20 inches (51 cm) wide with a roomy 74" (188cm) pitch.
"We’re thrilled that Sichuan Airlines has chosen Sydney Airport as its latest destination," said Kerrie Mather, CEO of Sydney Airport.
According to Will Horton, an aviation analyst with CAPA, while it may seem odd for Sichuan Airlines to anchor its Sydney route at Chongqing instead of Chengdu "the Chongqing government is subsidising the route to an unspecified sum."
"Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is Sichuan Airlines' largest hub" Horton explains. "The second, with half the capacity of Chengdu, is Chongqing."
"So not only is there Chengdu-Chongqing rivalry at play, but China's secondary cities are racing to catch up to their more mature counterparts primarily along the coast: Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai."
"There is a desire to emulate them, at the local level and national, as China's central government has a 'go west' campaign to economically develop the areas around Chengdu and Chongqing, and elsewhere."
On the Chinese scale, Sichuan Airlines is a medium-sized player partly owned by Guangzhou-based China Southern, which flies extensively to Australia and offers the Canton Route to Europe, along with China Eastern, which is not only Qantas' main partner in China but also a stakeholder in the nascent Jetstar Hong Kong airline due to begin flights early next year.
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