600 new airport jobs for city

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 30/10/2010

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Direct flights between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur on a new Asian airline are expected to create hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars for Canterbury.

The deal with new Malaysian airline AirAsia X was yesterday confirmed by Christchurch International Airport after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

That meeting was revealed as the reason for Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker's trip to Asia on Thursday.

AirAsia X will start the first low budget service to New Zealand about March, with four return services a week between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch.

A group of tourism, city and airport officials gave a crucial presentation in the Malaysian capital yesterday to confirm the new services, which should upgrade to daily flights if passengers fill the planes.

Parker said from Kuala Lumpur last night that the services would bring $70 million to $80m of annual economic benefit to the city according to an independent study, and stimulate 600-700 jobs in the region.

"I think we've achieved an absolute coup for our city ... we beat out Auckland, we actually beat out Sydney and it's going to revolutionise for a lot of Kiwis flying into the international marketplace because it's going to introduce incredibly low fares."

CIAL chief executive Jim Boult said he and other airport executives had been in talks with the Malaysian airline for two years.

Yesterday they signed a deal with AirAsia X which claims to be "the world's fastest growing low-cost carrier". Daily services could start in two years, he said.

Boult was joined by CIAL executive Gareth Owen, Parker, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler, TNZ representative Tim Hunter, and the NZ High Commissioner to Malaysia, David Kersey.

They had put their case to AirAsia X's chief executive, Azran Osman-Rani, and Tony Fernandes – a Malaysian entrepreneur known for turning AirAsia, a failing government-linked commercial airline, into a highly successful budget airline.

Boult said jobs would be created at the airport, with the new airline, as well as in the city. He could not comment on fares.

"The exact date of launch is yet to be decided but it will be around March next year and details of bookings and fare structures etc will come out in the next couple of weeks."

Parker said the airline would stimulate up to 70,000 more visitors a year. Christchurch had won the services because of a compelling business case and because of the relationship the city had with the owner of the airline.

"Mr Fernandes – he is kind of the Richard Branson of this part of the world, but he still likes to know there is a commitment. What he really liked about our presentation to him today is he felt there was a genuine commitment from a number of organisations ...

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"We're the major shareholders in the airport and he really wanted to eyeball us and make sure it was all genuine. He got that and he is right on board."

AirAsia X flies Airbus A330-300, A340-300 and A350-900 aircraft.

The airline flies to the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth, carrying 29,000 passengers a month on Australian routes.

- The Press

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