Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines -- which will start flying from Sydney to Shenzhen and Hangzhou next week -- has just been voted a 5-star airline by research firm Skytrax.
Hainan joins just six other airlines in the top ranking: Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Kingfisher, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.
Skytrax researches airlines' service quality to make its decision about star ratings, and it's interesting to note that Hainan is the only 5-star airline without a first class cabin.
Travellers from Sydney to Shenzhen and onwards to Hangzhou will be able to make up their own minds about the airline when flights start this time next week, arriving into Sydney from Hangzhou and Shenzhen on Wednesday 19 January.
As Australian Business Traveller reported last month, it's the first time these two Chinese cities have had direct flights from Australia.
The Shenzhen stop, across the border from Hong Kong, is clearly aimed at the business market for the lucrative Pearl River Delta manufacturing region.
Previously, travellers would have flown into Hong Kong and then crossed the border into China, but direct flights will save time and reduce the number of customs and immigration checks required.
The continuation of the flight to Hangzhou, 180 km southwest of Shanghai, will capture the lucrative market in previously un-served Zhejiang province.
While the city is reasonably close to Shanghai as the crow flies, journey times to the area will improve drastically, as travellers previously needed to change planes to reach Hangzhou.
Flight timings have been confirmed for next week.
Hainan Airlines will fly an A330 on the route three times a week. Flights depart Hangzhou at 15.55 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, stopping for an hour and twenty minutes in Shenzhen, and arriving in Sydney at 07.40 the next day.
The return flight leaves Sydney at 10.10 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. It stops in Shenzhen at 16.40 and leaves for Hangzhou an hour and fifteen minutes later, arriving at 19.50.
Six Chinese cities now have direct flights to Sydney:
- Beijing (Air China)
- Shanghai (Air China, China Eastern, Qantas)
- Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas)
- Guangzhou (China Southern)
- Shenzhen (Hainan Airlines)
- Hangzhou (Hainan Airlines)
The stop in Shenzhen also means that options for travellers to China's other cities are increasing.
From Shenzhen, Hainan Airlines has connections to Beijing, Changchun, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guilin, Guiyang, Haikou, Harbin, Hohhot, Jinan, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Qingdao, Sanya, Shenyang, Taiyuan, Tianjin, Urumqi, Wuhan, Xiamen, Xian, Xuzhou and Zhengzhou.