Beijing Capital Airlines to launch Shenyang-Qingdao to Melbourne route

Beijing Capital Airlines will become the latest Chinese carrier to begin direct flights to Australia when it takes off on a new Shenyang-Qingdao-Melbourne route.

The airline is launching the route with sale fares for Australians travelling to Qingdao from $510 return or $255 one-way.

The airline will fly an Airbus A330 three times a week to Melbourne. The plane features 220 seats, 186 in economy class and 36 in business. Beijing Capital Airlines boasts that the economy cabin features seats with 33-inches (84 cm) of legroom - one or two inches more than most other airlines' cheap seats - while business class passengers will enjoy lie-flat beds for the long-haul flight.

Beijing Capital Airlines' base airport, as its name suggests, is Beijing, but the Melbourne route will take off from Qingdao, a city whose name Australians will no doubt recognise for the popular beer that originated there, Tsingtao.

Founded in 2006, Beijing Capital Airlines now has a fleet of 65 aircraft and flies 131 routes including 21 international routes. The Melbourne route is the airlines' first in the southern hemisphere.

Chinese airlines have been increasing flight capacity to Australia in recent years as tourism from the country to Australia increases. Melbourne Airport saw 798,000 arrivals from China over the 12 months to April this year.

Beijing Capital Airlines arrival comes hot on the heels of Xiamen Air, which began flights from the city of Xiamen to Melbourne on July 1. Xiamen flies Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the twice-weekly route.

Lyell Strambi, CEO of Melbourne Airport, said arrivals from China were experiencing huge growth in Victoria, with an average increase of more than 15 per cent per year over the past five years.

"Victorians are also travelling to China in increasing numbers," he said.

"Over the past five years Melbourne Airport's outbound traffic has grown on average by 7.2 per cent each year."

The airline's launch sale fares are for travel between September 30 and October 30 and can be booked through its international website http://intl.jdair.net