AUSTRALIA Air, the new airline granted rights to fly to China if it can raise A$55 million (about HK$286 million), plans to begin twice-weekly services to Beijing via Guangzhou at the end of September. The airline's founder, chairman and chief executive, Colin Hendrick, said he would raise more than the figure required by the Australian Government's International Air Services Commission and had received applications from investors in Hongkong, China and Singapore. An approach was made two weeks ago by a Chinese government agency and was being considered, in particular because the airline had applied, through the Federal Department of Transport, to run a daily service to China, he said. It had also applied to fly to Shanghai via Shenzhen from October. ''We have just agreed to appoint the China International Travel Service [CITS] as our general sales agent in China,'' he said. He said CITS was computerising and was ''a great deal more efficient in selling tickets than Air China''. Air China is the only other airline that flies direct from Australia to the mainland. Qantas stopped flying direct to China in 1987. Mr Hendrick conceded that his airline could harm Hongkong's lucrative stopover business. Last year more than 85,000 Australians flew into China, and most were forced to stop over in the territory. His airline would aim at both the tourist and business markets. ''In the first 12 months 100,000 to 200,000 mainland Chinese will come to Australia,'' he said. Mr Hendrick unveiled the airline's livery: its symbol will be a gold boomerang and its crew will wear a mandarin blue suit with green silk embroidery and a high mandarin collar, with gold boomerang buttons. Forty pilots, all Australian and mostly ex-Qantas pilots who retired at the age of 55, have been recruited. Interviews for the 300 cabin crew had been held in Singapore and were due in Australia in four weeks, he said. Singapore crew members would be the senior staff, and would have to speak Mandarin. ''The level of service we are expecting to be the same as Singapore Airlines. We will be a premium quality scheduled airline with premium quality service. We will match Air China's prices,'' Mr Hendrick said. He said overseas investor equity would be held at 25 per cent. But the company would remain private. Mr Hendrick said one of the twice-weekly flights from Sydney via Melbourne to Guangzhou and Beijing would stop in Singapore, at the request of Singapore's civil aviation authority.