Direct flights between Christchurch and Adelaide are a step closer after the cities' airports signed a deal to link the two cities today.
The agreement means both airports will encourage an airline to start flying the route.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said that while flights between the two cities could be more than a year away, he was thrilled with the deal to push for flights.
"Christchurch is the gateway to New Zealand's spectacular South Island and there will be great economic spin-offs from the soon-to-be introduced flights," he said.
Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said his city was keen to give more support to Christchurch, particularly during the city's rebuild period.
The establishment of direct flights was a great thing for tourism in both cities and the surrounding areas, he said.
Christchurch International Airport chief executive Jim Boult said the initiative has been under discussion between the airports for three or four months.
"Both airports have been keen to cement a formal agreement to investigate and encourage an airline to take up the route," he said.
"The recent new open skies policy over Christchurch until mid-2017 means any carrier can consider this opportunity, depending on its own air service agreements with Australia.
"The support package we'll offer the first airline to serve the route is valued at $7.5 million, depending on the exchange rate at the time. It's based on a daily service as well as other assumptions, which we'll work our way through with the airline which takes up the opportunity."
In the past year, about 38,910 people travelled between the South Island and South Australia.
Research showed considerably more would travel between both points if they could fly direct, which supported the argument for a new service, Boult said.
This suggested a direct daily service would have considerable uptake and could be worth as much as $30m to the regional and South Island economy, he said.
Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young said a direct air service was appealing.
He said there were many common attributes between the two cities, including a sister-city relationship of more than 40 years.
"A direct air service to Christchurch Airport will definitely be an attractive offer to South Australians. They know Christchurch is on the doorstep of a winter playground, as well as beaches and outdoor adventures in the summer," Young said.
"The opportunity also exists for New Zealanders to experience Adelaide for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, great wineries, eco-tourism and gateway to the Outback."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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