Lufthansa and Swiss expect to fly more Australians to Europe via Singapore and Hong Kong this year on the back of new Boeing 777 services and a joint venture with Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines.
The two airlines already count Australia as the largest market to which they don't actually fly.
"Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok are all major gateways for Australian travellers" confirms Heiko Brix, Lufthansa Group Regional Director for Southeast Asia.
"You leave Australia in the afternoon and the overnight flight (from Asia) is very convenient without losing time," Brix says.
"You go to sleep in a fully flat bed and you arrive in the morning able to get straight to work or you have (connections to) all of Europe in front of you."
Brix intends to grow the local market even further from July 1 when the joint venture between Lufthansa/Swiss and Singapore Airlines takes wing, pending Government approvals.
"We will be improving customer choice and customers will benefit from the increased opportunities in the network," Brix says of the alliance, which is expected to see more of a spread in flight schedules between the three airlines to provide the flexibility which business travellers value.
Singapore remains the sweet spot
The move will also bolster Singapore's status as the major Australian feed for Lufthansa and Swiss.
"Singapore is our most popular hub for Australians" shares Lufthansa Group Country Manager Anil Rodricks, "and Hong Kong comes a close second."
Rodricks reports that "about 70-75%" of those travellers are in transit, with the remainder breaking their trip with a stop-over of one or more nights.
"Singapore and Hong Kong are hugely popular in their own right and are also regional headquarters for a number of Australian companies," which sees some travellers book to fly out through one city and back in via another.
The debut of Swiss' Boeing 777-300ER on the Hong Kong-Zurich route from April 11 will increase capacity out of Hong Kong "and give us a lot more commercial opportunity," Rodricks says, adding that "we partner with both Cathay Pacific and Qantas to Hong Kong."
Singapore is also in line to see the Boeing 777-300ER suggests Aditya Khullar, Swiss' Head of Southeast Asia & Pacific.
"It's on the map, we're pushing hard for it and head office is looking at it as well" Khullar says. "I would say it's our next destination in Asia for the Boeing 777."
Austrian Airlines heads for HK
Lufthansa's 'multi-gateway' strategy will receive another boost when sibling Austrian Airlines starts flying between Vienna and Hong Kong from September 5.
The airline estimates that two-thirds of passengers will make connections from Vienna, "especially in the direction of Western and Eastern Europe."
"This is a great way to consolidate our position in Hong Kong" Rodricks suggests, "with overnights covered by two Lufthansa flights and one Swiss flight, and the new Austrian flight departing Hong Kong at 9.40am."
Finnair also counts Singapore and Hong Kong as vital funnels for Australian flyers, reflecting a continued preference by Australian business travellers to transit via those cities.
"Hong Kong to Helsinki is just 11 hours' flying time, and 9½ hours on the way back, although a lot off people are under the misconception that it's a lot further," says Geoff Stone, Finnair country manager for Australia and New Zealand.
"And Sydney to Hong Kong is just over eight hours, so I always like going (to Europe) via Hong Kong. It's like a nice halfway point with a somewhat shorter flight (to Hong Kong) and then a slightly longer flight."
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