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Yet another Chinese airline is starting direct flights to Australia, with Melbourne seeing thrice-weekly flights to Chengdu with Sichuan Airlines.
Chengdu, a city with 14 million people in its urban area, lies to the northwest of Chongqing in western China. It's one of "China's 13 megalopolises" according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, and one of the Chinese Government's key growth areas.
Sichuan Airlines is a medium-sized airline in Chinese terms -- not one of the Big Four Chinese airlines, but it's affiliated with and partly owned by China Southern, the Guangzhou-based airline that flies extensively to Australia and offers the Canton Route to Europe.
Melbourne-Chengdu flights are planned to run three times a week, using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, with angled lie-flat seats in business class.
No dates have yet been announced for the route, with a Melbourne Airport spokesperson telling Australian Business Traveller that all the arrangements are "still subject to regulatory approval." Usually, that's a rubber-stamp process.
Sichuan Airlines could also be angling for a piece of the Kangaroo Route pie for flights to Europe, with flights to Amsterdam, London, Vienna and Paris mooted in a report from the Centre for Aviation last year.
Suggested names for the Australia-Chengdu-Europe route to rival the Kangaroo, Falcon and Canton routes in a comment below...
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