Virgin Australia to fly Melbourne to Hong Kong from July

Virgin Australia to fly Melbourne to Hong Kong from July

Virgin Australia will launch direct flights to Hong Kong in early July, taking off first from Melbourne.

In February, Virgin also announced further details regarding its alliance with HNA Group carriers, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express, which covers codesharing, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and cooperation on joint-pricing and scheduling of services between Australia and Hong Kong and Australia and mainland China. When they do, Virgin will provide five return journeys per week.

Hong Kong Airlines is unable to operate to any of Australia's four major gateway cities - Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney - as there is no more capacity for Hong Kong carriers under the current bilateral air services agreement.

Qantas and its alliance partner Cathay Pacific are now the only airlines that fly direct between Australia and Hong Kong.

The alliance means passengers will be able to connect from Hong Kong to 13 destinations in mainland China.

The flights are slated to begin in mid-2017 with Airbus A330-200s, according to the airline's application to Australia's International Air Services Commission (IASC) for the necessary traffic rights to serve Hong Kong.

Australian Business Traveller approached Qantas and Cathay Pacific for their take on Virgin's move and how they would respond, but both airlines but declined the opportunity to comment.

"Awarded the world's most liveable city for the past six years3, Melbourne is an global city in its own right and hosts some of Australia's biggest and most spectacular events".

China is shaping up as a key market for Australian carriers, with about 1.2 million Chinese tourists visiting Australia past year. Bookings can be made from tomorrow, March 22.

Yes, that's a big call, but there are some unresolved questions about Virgin's longer term plans and for that matter, the realistic prospects for China-Australia flights if we annoy those who remind us of the fiction that Hong Kong is a truly sovereign entity independent from Beijing.

Flight VA87 will depart Melbourne at 10.25am every Monday and arrive in Hong Kong at 6.05pm and depart at 9.40am on Wednesdays, arriving at 5.20pm.