Direct flights asap: Chinese mission heats up
CAIRNS Airport remains confident of fast-tracking direct flights between China and the Far North following a high level travel mission to China last week.
Airport chief executive officer Kevin Brown said while the delegation, including Mayor Val Schier and Tourism Tropical North Queensland chief executive officer Rob Giason, did not get any commitment from a carrier the senior airline officials had clearly heard the message that the region wanted direct flights to cater for the growing numbers of Chinese visiting the Far North.
The delegation met senior people at China Southern Airlines, which intends flying to Cairns by 2015, and China Eastern Airlines. Both carriers will be flying charter flights to Cairns for the Chinese New Year.
But Mr Brown said he was not prepared to wait for three years.
"We’re keen to understand where we are on their map and how soon we can be on their map," he said.
"I’m a pretty impatient person and I want things to happen quickly."
Mr Brown said the meetings were about "relationship building and trust".
He said he wanted to return to China as soon as possible next year armed with data requested by the airline officials as well as travel agents and wholesalers.
They wanted to know about the region’s economy, tourism and other businesses that the airlines could tap into, such as importing and exporting products as freight, he said.
Mr Brown said the inclusion of Cr Schier and Mr Giason was "culturally vital" as it showed the political, business and airport communities were united in making the Chinese airlines and their passengers feel welcome.
He said the fact they had been able to meet the highest levels of the airlines in particular showed that the carriers were keen to "listen and learn".
Mr Brown said he would take the talks to the next level and return early next year with some
Mr Giason said there were 10 charters in February next year, seven by China Southern and three by China Eastern, with about 2500 people on board.