By Christian Edwards
SYDNEY, Jan, 30 (Xinhua) -- China Southern Airlines' (CSA) first scheduled Cairns flight arrived in the far north Wednesday, cementing its position as Australia's key connection into China.
With services three times a week running throughout February to cater for high season demand, CSA will operate 41 weekly services to five Australian ports throughout the summer peak, continuing its rapid expansion down under.
In 2010, China Southern flew just 14 times a week to only two Australian destinations.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2013 and Asia's largest airline has ambitions to move beyond 50 flights a week.
China Southern Regional General Manager Australia/New Zealand, Henry He said, "We're on track to offer 55 scheduled weekly flights to Australia and New Zealand by the end of 2015."
The Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines has operated into Australia for more than 12 years now.
With twice daily flights between Sydney and Guangzhou, twice daily from Melbourne and three times a week from Perth. Between January 29 and February 28, Brisbane flights increase to daily to connect with thrice-weekly flights from Cairns, China Southern has become Australia's leading connection into the Middle Kingdom.
He said the first air bridge between Cairns and the airline's modern hub in Guangzhou was a unique connection.
"This is a very proud day for China Southern Airlines as our inaugural scheduled service to Cairns arrives and we open up a new direct link between far north Queensland and southern China," He said.
"We know Chinese tourists want to travel to great Australian destinations like Cairns and are pleased to be able to offer a way to do this during the summer travel peak." He added.
The first scheduled Cairns flight was greeted by Cairns Airport representatives including Cairns Mayor Bob Manning; Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Rob Giason; and a collection of some of Queensland's more serpentine Year of the Snake.
China Southern has also been chartered by Chinese tour operators for seven Guangzhou-to-Cairns services and two Guangzhou- to-Adelaide services during the Chinese New Year festivities.
China Southern will operate thrice-weekly flights between Guangzhou and Cairns (via Brisbane), which will increase to daily services during the same period, until February 28, 2013.
CSA, with a growing reputation as the largest carrier in China and Asia (and the third largest in the world), spirited 385,706 passengers to Australia last year, a more than 56 per cent increase on the 246,000 passengers the airline flew to Australia in 2011.
Due to growing demand CSA also offers daily direct services from Auckland to Guangzhou. China Southern operates the largest airline fleet in Asia and with more than 86 million passengers carried in 2012. It is the third largest carrier in the world.