Taiwan summer air link welcomed

A new airline service from Taiwan to Christchurch is another positive step in the recovery of the city from the 2011 earthquakes, says the tourism sector.

Christchurch Airport expects solid demand from Taiwanese tourists wanting to visit the South Island as part of a new summer service by Taiwan's China Airlines.

The service was announced yesterday by the airport, which is looking to boost the number of Asian tourists visiting the region and has been in talks with a number of airlines.

Chief executive Malcolm Johns said the Taipei-Sydney-Christchurch service would operate three return flights a week for an initial summer season from December 2 to March 1. The airport would work hard to get the service extended to following summers, but was unlikely to win a year-round service in the initial years, Johns said.

"The South Island was a very popular destination for the Taiwanese in the 1990s," he said. "They're in the tropics and we're in the lower 40s."

The seasonal service will offer an extra 24,000 seats between Christchurch, Sydney and Taipei over December, January and February. The new schedule underlined the importance of Sydney as an international airport hub for the South Island, Johns said. There was already a well established link between China Airlines and Sydney.

The service had been won through persistence, with the airport business team having been in talks to build a relationship with the airline executives since 2012.

Canterbury Development Corporation chief executive Tom Hooper welcomed the additional air freight capacity the service would bring to Canterbury.

A recent report commissioned by CDC and produced by PwC noted that the South Island was missing out on exporting about 17,000 tonnes of high value air freight exports annually because of the lack of wide body aircraft servicing Christchurch.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (CCT) chief executive Tim Hunter said the service met a definite need.

"We know there is demand from Taiwan for travellers to visit the South Island," he said.

"We have seen 8 per cent growth in holiday arrivals from Taiwan to New Zealand in the past year and we are confident this new connection to the South Island will stimulate new holiday demand.

"The service will also appeal to travellers from other North Asian countries."

The new service offers a total time of 14 hours and 15 minutes, including transit time in Sydney, which is up to four hours shorter than existing flight patterns.

With two flight legs, it was one stop less than any other option available, Johns said.

The new summer service would have to be popular for Christchurch to retain it.

"As with all new services, it comes with a ‘use it or lose it' caveat, so we encourage the people of the South Island to take advantage of it this summer," he said.

"These flights will be the last heading to Sydney from Christchurch each evening so are sure to work well for South Islanders heading overseas."

Johns said the continuing emergence of alliances between airlines was an important part of the airline industry.

China Airlines was a member of the Sky Team Alliance, which did not currently connect with the South Island, but would once the Taiwanese service began. Other members of the Sky Team Alliance regularly flying to Sydney included Delta Air Lines, Korean Airlines, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern and Garuda Indonesia.

China Airlines already flies into Auckland from Sydney and Brisbane.

The Press