Virgin Australia will launch its first ever flights to China – including Hong Kong – as part of a major alliance with China’s HNA Group.
First announced in May 2016, the partnership will see HNA take an equity stake in the Australian carrier, which could eventually reach 20%. And the operational terms of the alliance have also now been revealed in an application lodged with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.
Under the plans, Virgin Australia will initially launch direct flights to Hong Kong from an as-yet-unnamed Australian airport in mid-2017, before expanding to destinations in mainland China in future.
Virgin Australia will also codeshare on flights operated by HNA’s airlines, including Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines, on flights between Australia and Greater China. In return, HNA’s airlines will be able to sell tickets on Virgin Australia’s domestic and trans-Tasman network.
“This new alliance will be a game changer for travel between Australia and China,” said Virgin Australia’s group CEO, John Borghetti. “We are excited about introducing direct Virgin Australia flights… to Hong Kong, together with access to destinations across China.
“The alliance will accelerate and support our access to the Chinese market, which is Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable inbound travel market,” he added.
The companies will also work together in areas such as route planning, sales, distribution, marketing, frequent flyer programmes and lounge access.