Skies open up for China, Australia with new flight agreement

SYDNEY — Australia and China’s new Open Skies agreement lifts restrictions on the number of seats that airlines can fly between the two countries, and eases limits on codeshare flights as well.

The inbound China market to Australia, already on an upswing, took off this year with 1.1 million Chinese travellers heading to Australia over the past 12 months, a 22% increase.

Australia’s Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said signing an Open Skies deal with China was a top priority. “These new arrangements will remove all capacity restrictions between Australia and China for each country’s airline which is an important enabler for increased trade and tourism. We have also liberalized traffic rights and codeshare arrangements, which are important for Australian airlines,” said Chester.

Seven Chinese carriers currently fly to Australia. Heading the other direction, Qantas offers daily Sydney-Shanghai service. Starting in January 2017 Qantas is also expected to pick up Sydney-Beijing nonstop flights. Hong Kong and Beijing flights with Virgin Australia could also be in the works.