Virgin Australia is powering towards the launch of flights to Hong Kong, with tickets expected to go on sale by the end of next month.
This will of course be preceded by the announcement of which Australian city will anchor the flights – will they be Sydney-Hong Kong, Melbourne-Hong Kong or Brisbane-Hong Kong?
Melbourne is said to be on the starting grid for the Airbus A330 flights, which will dovetail into connections from Hong Kong to mainland China on Hong Kong Airlines, which is part-owned by Virgin stakeholder and Chinese aviation colossus HNA Group.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that pending interim approval by the ACCC, the airline planned to begin promoting the route from late March.
The Hong Kong service will be followed by direct flights to a major city in mainland China, again from an as-yet-unknown Australian port.
While Beijing was previously earmarked for that service, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti last week told Australian Business Traveller that other cities were also under consideration.
"It's complex... slots at Beijing and Shanghai are not easy to get, so it's a balancing act between where you want to fly and where you can get slots."
"Fortunately we can get a feed from HNA from almost any city," he added, indicating that Virgin is looking further afield than the two most obvious candidates.
"It's a work in progress, (and) just like with Hong Kong we won't announce anything until it's secured."
Qantas and Cathay Pacific all offer daily flights to Hong Kong from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with Cathay rolling out its latest Airbus A350 to Melbourne and Brisbane.
Regardless of which city plays host to Virgin's Hong Kong flights, expect to see keen discounting on all fares – not just economy – and potentially the lure of bonus frequent flyer points or status credits as airlines fight for their share of a market that's set to become a lot more competitive.