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Hainan Airlines appears to have plans to fly to Sydney Airport from Shenzhen and Hangzhou in China. Despite rumors of the new flights, and a few mentions on Hainan's website, an official announcement has not yet materialized.
The carrier's English language homepage states "Hainan Airlines will operate direct flight between Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Sydney". Their schedule shows flights beginning from the two Chinese cities to Sydney starting on the 10th of December.
One would think this confirms the deal will go ahead. However, flights on the routes are currently not available to be booked, and both Hainan and Sydney Airport are keeping quiet on any deal that has been made.
Hainan Airlines were not available to comment on the new flights. A spokesperson for Sydney Airport told Australian Business Traveller, "I have not seen an announcement from Hainan on this and am not able to comment on their behalf."
The moves are indicative of Hainan's desire to expand to more international markets, as the carrier also looks to join one of the three airline alliances. Airline alliance oneworld, the only one without a mainland China airline, is rumored to be the most likely choice. No official talks have yet taken place.
Flights between the two countries are in high demand. For example, in the 44 flights China Southern Airlines took from Australia to China in August, an average of 85.1% of seats were filled. Air China flew at 81.3% capacity, while China Eastern and Qantas had around 76.1%.
With healthy load factors like this, Hainan's desire to break into Australia comes as no surprise. Expect an announcement from the airline in the near future.