Shenzhen-based Donghai Airlines is set to become the first Chinese carrier to begin long-haul services with a Boeing 737-800 on a twice-weekly Shenzhen-Darwin, Australia route May 30. Flying time will be 5.4 hours.
“The new route opens a new chapter of China’s intercontinental flight operations. Uniquely, Donghai Airlines becomes the first airline from China to serve Australia with a Boeing 737-800, providing a more cost-effective and economically efficient way that will enable very competitive fares for passengers,” Boeing China VP-sales and marketing Charlie Gu said at the launch ceremony.
Donghai president Yang Jianhong said the carrier can cut operating costs in half by using the 737 narrowbody instead of a widebody on the intercontinental route. “We are also considering changing this route into Shenzhen-Bali-Darwin or Shenzhen-Darwin-Bali at the proper time as there are a lot of passenger traffic between Bali and Australia,” he added.
Yang also said Donghai and Darwin-based Airnorth are in talks on a partnership to use Airnorth’s network to transfer to different Australian destinations.
Gu said the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is expected to replace the 737-800 on the Shenzhen-Darwin service when the carrier begins taking delivery of MAX aircraft next year.
Launched in 2002, Donghai switched to passenger operations from cargo transport in 2013. The carrier operates a single fleet of 19 Boeing 737-800s on more than 30 domestic and international routes. In addition, Donghai also has a backlog order of more than 40 Boeing aircraft, including Boeing 737 MAX 8s, 737 MAX 10s and 787s.
“As the local carrier in Shenzhen, we will continue to explore the international market and [contribute to enhance] the position of Shenzhen airport as an international aviation hub and improve its competitiveness.” Yang noted.
Donghai is preparing to open the following new international services: Haiphong (Vietnam), Kalibo (Philippines) and Mandalay (Myanmar). Additionally, the carrier is scheduled to open Zhuhai-Wanzhou-Pattaya, Thailand international service May 31.