AirAsia X and Singapore Airlines in Oz, but where's the roo? (Photos: author)
As this decade draws to an end (if you ignore when the millennium actually was) and commentators seek to define it, aviation's decade legacy in Australia is clear. On the international front, traffic shifted from European carriers to Asian carriers.
Australia had historically been tied to Europe--Britain especially--and those ties were replicated in air services. Air France, Alitalia, Austrian, and KLM are some of the carriers Australia saw in its heyday of European flights.
Now only British Airways and Virgin Atlantic remain, and BA has seasonally reduced one of its B747-400 services to a B777-200. [Update 4 Feb 2010: BA will reduce its services again this year.]
On the other hand, Asia has grown increasingly important to Australia. On the political front, Kevin Rudd was elected as Prime Minister in 2007 with many impressed by his fluent Mandarin.
Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff recently said that his airport saw Chinese passengers overtake UK passengers as the most frequent international visitors in 2008.
In October China Southern announced it would up its Guangzhou-Sydney service from 5 weekly to daily until 20 February 2010. It previously flew an add-on sector to Melbourne from Sydney, but through 25 March 2010 will operate thrice weekly non-stops to Melbourne.
Yesterday the carrier, the fifth largest in China, announced it would increase capacity to Sydney by approximately 10% by upgrading the A330-200 with an A330-300. The increase sees the introduction of first class with 4 seats along with 24 additional economy seats.
Late last month AirAsia X announced it would go double daily (from 11x weekly) to Melbourne in the peak travel periods of February and July. CEO Azran Osman-Rani said his low-cost, long-haul carrier in the near future plans to add more frequencies in Australia, and hopefully serve Sydney.
(Above photo: China Southern)
If this decade--the noughties, or whatever you please--saw a shift from European to Asian services, the next decade will continue that trend, and also see how Australia's airlines will respond.
Will it be cut throat? Or sneakily strategic along the lines of AirAsia and Jetstar looking to form a joint venture?
Or will Australia's airlines not respond in full force because they don't want to (Jetstar feigning off AirAsia X on routes to Europe, V Australia settling in on the US market) or can't (Qantas and Jetstar growth pegged on much-delayed 787, Virgin Blue Group only has 777s and narrow bodies)?