Montpellier Airport

New Route of the Day – Asia Pacific (1 February 2024): China Eastern Airlines between Shanghai PVG and Cairns


China Eastern Airlines inaugurated a limited seasonal service between Shanghai PVG and Cairns on Thursday 1 February, marking the resumption of flights between China and Tropical North Queensland after four years. The 5,900-kilometre service will be maintained 2-weekly for just three weeks with alternating departure days. The 230-seat A330-200 aircraft will be used on all the flights. China Eastern Airlines last flew the route in February 2019.

What they said

Richard Barker, CEO of Cairns Airport, said: “China is a key inbound tourism market, and these are our first direct flights since the pandemic. We are thrilled to be welcoming China Eastern Airlines today. It is clear that our region remains a destination of desire, and we expect these direct seasonal services will help to accelerate the return of visitors from China.”

Mark Olsen, CEO of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, added: “Tropical North Queensland’s international recovery is closely linked to aviation access and these flights will allow us to show that Cairns is ready to welcome visitors from China. China has been the missing aviation puzzle piece for international tourism in the region to rebound from the pandemic. We have connected with the tourism trade three times in the past year, which was well received, but to be able to make the connections with the customers via direct flights will make the difference in our international recovery.”

Cairns sees return of China flights

Despite operating just ten return flights during the Lunar New Year holiday period and bringing 2,320 seats into Cairns, China Eastern Airlines’ return to the Australian city after five years is significant.

Athens International Airport

The flights mark the resumption of operations from China for the first time since February 2020, when Hainan Airlines maintained services from Shenzhen to the Australian city.

Operations between China and Cairns peaked in 2019, when, during the first quarter of the year, a total of three Chinese carriers served Tropical North Queensland. Apart from China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, China Southern Airlines flew from its hub in Guangzhou.

Before the pandemic, China was North Queensland’s largest international market accounting for one in five international visitor nights and injecting more than $200 million a year into the regional economy.


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