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First direct flights between China and Australia's Northern Territory announced

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The first-ever direct flight route from Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory (NT) to China was announced on Friday.

The NT Government announced that Donghai Airlines would fly the route from Darwin to Shenzhen beginning in May.

Michael Gunner, Chief Minister of the NT, said that once the service reached three flights per week at 80 percent capacity it would pump approximately 32 million Australian dollars (24.8 million US dollars) into the local economy every year.

"We know that travellers from China spend more on average than other visitors, so it is an important and lucrative market," he told reporters on Friday.

"We are already attracting 18,000 Chinese visitors annually and this new direct flight will allow us to meet, and well and truly exceed, our target of 30,000 visitors from China by 2020."

The flights will operate twice per week from the outset with the capacity to add one additional service during peak periods.

Donghai Airlines said new Boeing 737-800's would initially fly the route before being upgraded to Boeing 737 MAX8's.

Tickets for the service were scheduled to go on sale in China on Friday but Australians will have to wait until the end of April.

Ian Kew, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NT Airports, said that the service would create an additional 35,000 airline seats flying into the NT every year.

"Uniquely, Donghai Airlines will be the only airline from China to serve Australia with a Boeing 737-800 aircraft, providing a more cost effective and economically efficient aircraft that will enable very competitive fares to be offered."

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