Chinese airline to fly direct to Melbourne

Another Chinese airline has joined a growing number of carriers flying direct from Asia to Melbourne.

Sichuan Airlines, majority-owned by the Sichuan provincial government, will fly directly from Chengdu three times a week and establish its Australian headquarters in Melbourne.

Announcing the deal during a trade mission to China, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said it was a significant step in positioning the state as Australia's gateway to China.

"Direct air services between Melbourne and Chengdu will increase business, education and tourism ties between Victoria and China," he said.

Chengdu is one of the largest cities in western China, with a population of 14.7 million, and has presented itself as a key driver of China's economic growth in recent decades.

China Eastern, China Southern and Air China all fly directly from China to Melbourne.

There was a 27 per cent increase in the number of Chinese overnight visitors in the 2011/12 year, according to Tourism Victoria figures.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive John Lee expects the new route to Chengdu to lead to growth in Chinese visitation.

Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff said the airline will help Melbourne become Australia's premier airport for Chinese travellers.

Sichuan Airlines launched in the late 1980s and added its first international route in June 2012.

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