This week we saw Branson and Borghetti launch VA78, a new Melbourne to Hong Kong service. The inaugural flight kicked off Wednesday morning, marketing the start of Virgin’s Asia expansion.
The A330-300 pushed back from the gate and set course, packed with politicians, invited guests and Richard Branson himself. Virgin Australia now joins Cathay and Qantas on the MEL to HKG route, and with their HNA Group alliance the airline will be able to offer partner flights onto the mainland.
“This really is the spearhead into Asia for us”, Borghetti told the media.
In the wake of a burgeoning middle class throughout Asia, Virgin isn’t the only airline ramping up efforts to prepare for a new yield in capacity. Qantas, which has already increased capacity to high-growth Asia cities, is planning to deploy 40 per cent of its capacity to Asia in the 2018 financial year.
So why is Hong Kong on the rise?
Hong Kong is an incredibly important destination for Australian business travellers, reflecting traditional links for the financial services sector, and the growing relevance of China for Australian businesses overall.
According to data provided by AMEX Global Business Travel, Hong Kong is the third most visited destination globally by Australian business travellers and the city also ranks third for inbound travel. The majority of businesses travelling between Hong Kong and Australia are in the financial services sector.
Inbound: Top 10 total international cities visiting Australia for business:
3 HONG KONG
6 NEW YORK
9 KUALA LUMPUR
Jo Sully, Vice-President & GM of American Express Global Business Travel, says airlines are responding well to the recent capacity growth and change in the APAC region.
“Considering we have recently seen China become the largest business travel market in the world, it makes sense to prepare for inbound business travel from China and Hong Kong to rise, particularly along key routes to Melbourne and Sydney,” Sully said.
Travel between Shanghai and Australia is also significant, ranking in the top ten destinations for inbound and outbound travel. “Given the growing trade between the two countries, any increases in capacity are therefore welcome.”