China Southern spreads its wings
China Southern spreads its wings

As we arrive at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport after our business-class flight from Perth on China Southern Airlines' new A330-223 - having enjoyed flat-bed seats and a succession of food and drink - we disembark on to the runway and are whisked away on a private minibus.

It's a similar story through the rest of our five-day stay in China, culminating in the check-in for our flight from Guangzhou to Beijing at China Southern's new red-carpet check-in desk for international first and business-class travellers, before taking our seats on the upper deck of an A380. On board, some of the cabin crew have a little trouble understanding our request for a celebratory flute of champagne - and given it's barely 9am, it is perhaps a little early for a drink - but make up for it by offering to place our complimentary slippers on our feet for us.

While you can't expect quite the same level of luxury in China Southern's economy seats, the airline has recently introduced a new A330-223 on flights from Perth to its hub in Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton), just a stone's throw north of Hong Kong in mainland China.

This means all passengers can now enjoy seat-back televisions, wider seats and more leg room, while first class and business get the full flat-bed seats. Also, its new luggage allowances are generous: two pieces of luggage up to 24kg for economy passengers, two up to 32kg for business and three up to 32kg for first class.

While relatively new to Perth, having started direct flights from Perth to mainland China in November 2011, China Southern has operated in Australia for 12 years and is the third-largest carrier in the world. Its fleet of more than 500 aircraft is the largest in Asia and carried more than 86 million passengers last year.

China Southern has three flights a week from Perth and Guangzhou - the only direct flights from WA to mainland China - departing Perth at 8.30am on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving in Guangzhou at 4.55pm. Passengers can then continue on to Beijing at 7pm, arriving at 10.20pm.

That's a total travelling time of about 8½ hours to Guangzhou - roughly the same as flying from Perth to Mauritius - and just under 14 hours all the way through to Beijing.

Return flights to Perth depart Beijing at 5.30pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, stopping at Guangzhou at 8.45pm, taking off at 9.45pm and landing in Perth at 6am.

The Guangzhou-Beijing route is serviced by A380s (along with other planes) and China Southern has 12 daily direct flights between the two cities - which, if nothing else, is an impressive demonstration of the sheer scale of China's population. And that's just one route, and one airline, on one day.

From Guangzhou or Beijing, travellers can connect onward to key destinations in Japan, North America and Europe. China Southern has onward connections to almost 200 destinations in 35 countries via its Guangzhou hub on what it has dubbed the "Canton route". It recently announced direct flights to Vancouver and Moscow from Guangzhou and introduced A380s on its Guangzhou-Los Angeles route.

The airline also offers an affordable option for WA traveller going to London - its current return Perth to London fares start from $1553 for economy, $7153 for business and $9283 for first class.

Indeed, despite the new planes and my own luxurious flying experience, China Southern is at the affordable end of the market - return economy flights to Guangzhou currently start at $759 (from $3848 for business and from $5978 for first class) and to Beijing from $765 (from $4074 for business class and from $6244 for first class).

The new Perth to Vancouver route costs from $1360 return for economy and Perth to Los Angeles is from $1373 return for economy, making them cost-effective ways to reach North America.

There's also the potential to break longer journeys such as these with a stopover in Beijing or Guangzhou - an option made all the more appealing by the fact all of China is on the same time zone at Perth, so jet lag is not an issue.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport recently announced it will join Beijing and Shanghai by introducing a 72-hour visa-free stay policy for Australians from the middle of the year.

This means it will be possible to stop over for up to three days in Guangzhou without needing a visa, allowing travellers to enjoy all that the vibrant city of about 14 million people has to offer - from shopping and Cantonese cuisine (it's the home of dim sum) to cultural experiences ranging from traditional Buddhist temples to ultra-modern architectural splendours such as the monumental Zaha Hadid-designed Opera House.

Gemma Nisbet travelled to China courtesy of China Southern Airlines and Creative Holidays.


For China Southern bookings, see travel agents, phone 1300 889 628 or visit

Prices in this story are valid to the end of July, excluding peak times.

The West Australian

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