Extra air services cleared to land

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2012

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Christchurch International Airport has welcomed a new "open skies" policy from the Government, allowing foreign airlines easy access.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday said Cabinet had confirmed a new International Air Transport Policy Statement.

New services to Christchurch would be favourably considered until June 2017, Brownlee said.

Christchurch airport has been in talks to win new airline services, particularly after losing the valuable AirAsia X service from Kuala Lumpur at the end of May.

The Government had decided it was in New Zealand's best interests to make it as easy as possible for airlines to offer services to and from Christchurch, helping tourism and other sectors recover from the 2010/2011 earthquakes, Brownlee said.

The policy was also aimed at growing the economy by providing New Zealanders with better access to the world and helping increase trade in goods and services.

Airport chief executive Jim Boult said the move to give favourable consideration to airlines offering new services to and from Christchurch, thus helping with the region's recovery from the earthquakes, represented a significant change in Government thinking.

Usually the New Zealand Government and other foreign governments had to negotiate air services agreements, but this would be avoided under the changes.

“That aspect alone effectively creates ‘Open Skies' over Christchurch until 2017 and is invaluable for the South Island,” Boult said.

"Basically any airline that wants to fly to Christchurch they [the Government] will make a special dispensation, so without negotiating an air services agreement they'll say yes, job done."

It was a thoughtful gesture towards assisting Christchurch and the region in its recovery. "We look forward to engaging with airlines interested in bringing more travellers to the stunning South Island, via Christchurch airport

“We are continuing meaningful discussions with several airlines and though these things take time, I remain optimistic of a positive outcome,” Boult said.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden said the new policy opened a window of opportunity, providing the South Island with the chance to get more long-haul air services to Christchurch.

"[This is to] the benefit of all of the South Island tourism operators and the broader visitor economy.”

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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