Sichuan Airlines, majority-owned by China's provincial government of Sichuan, will now be flying direct from Chengdu to Melbourne three times a week, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced during a recent trade mission to China.
A Sichuan Airlines Airbus A330-200 (2011).
Moreover, the Chinese airline will establish an Australian headquarters, also in Melbourne.
"Direct air services between Melbourne and Chengdu will increase business, education and tourism ties between Victoria and China," Mr Baillieu said.
Launched in the late 1980s, Sichuan Airlines added its first international route in June 2012.
In August, Melbourne Airport reported handling increased international passenger numbers by five per cent versus a year ago.
Sichuan Airlines' decision to have its headquarters in Melbourne underpins the latter's global appeal and connectivity.
"We are delighted that Sichuan Airlines has chosen Melbourne as its Australian hub, providing Victorians with more direct flights to this important and dynamic gateway to western China," said Chris Woodruff, Melbourne Airport CEO.
"Sichuan Province is a key growth region in China. Direct flights between Chengdu and Melbourne will lead to stronger tourism, education, business and cultural connections," Mr Woodruff said.
According to figures from Tourism Victoria, the number of Chinese overnight visitors grew 27 per cent in the 2011/12 year.
John Lee, Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive, said the new route to Chengdu could open doors to more Chinese visits to Melbourne.
Chengdu is one of western China's largest cities, with a population placed at 14.7 million.
At present, China Eastern, China Southern and Air China all fly directly from China to Melbourne.
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