China Southern's new 'Canton Route' from Australia to London via Guangzhou takes flight this morning, increasing the pressure on Qantas and its long-established Kangaroo Route via Singapore (and, to a lesser extent, Hong Kong).
The world's fourth-largest airline is hoping that cheaper fares and a 26-hour elapsed time from Sydney to London will draw business travellers over rival airlines' hubs at Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.
Flights will depart Guangzhou at 9am for a 3.25pm arrival at Heathrow. On Wednesday and Friday the return flights leaves London at 10.30pm, arriving in Guangzhou at 5.30pm the next day; on Sunday there's an earlier wheels-up time of 6.25pm, which gets you into Guangzhou at 1.25pm the following day.
(For more details, visit flychinasouthern.com or call China Southern’s national reservations line on 1300 889 628.)
Guangzhou is just over 100 km from Hong Kong, and like the Kangaroo Route's Singapore stop-over Guangzhou is a key business class destination in its own right. And as China's second-busiest airport it has extensive connections to other Chinese cities.
China Southern already runs double daily flights between Sydney-Guangzhou and Melbourne-Guangzhou, with four flights per week from Brisbane and three from Perth. The airline aims to almost triple the current tally of 35 weekly flights from Australia to Guangzhou to "more than 110 ... by the end of 2015" said He.
China Southern's Airbus A330 fleet have the airline's new first and business class seats installed in the pointy end.
In business class you'll find a 1.9m angled-flat bed in a 2-2-2 arrangement with 64 inch pitch, 15 inch video screens and up to 40 kilos of checked luggage.
First class class is a more spacious 1-2-1 arrangement with each passenger ensconced in a cubicle-style layout.
Since China Southern is a member of the SkyTeam alliance, travellers can earn and burn frequent flyer miles across the SkyTeam network -- although we're yet to see an Australian-based SkyTeam member airline.