China Southern mulls more Christchurch flights
China Southern Airlines today announced a special chartered 787 Dreamliner service to Christchurch Airport in February, with the airport hopeful it will lead to a regular service.
New Zealand has already received its first commercial 787 Dreamliner service, with China Southern touching down with the Boeing plane at Auckland International Airport last month.
China Southern would operate the first commercially flown Dreamliner to Christchurch, as part of a one-off charter programme next February, for Chinese New Year, Christchurch Airport chief executive Jim Boult said.
The charter flight would be the first Dreamliner to fly to Christchurch commercially, the first Chinese airline to fly to New Zealand's second-largest city and the first China Southern charter flight to the South Island, he said.
It could be the precursor to a regular China service.
"It is a special charter from the airline's Guangzhou hub and a significant opportunity for trade and tourism in the South Island.
"We are seeing tourism from China continuing to grow, with Chinese visitor arrivals into Christchurch up 42 per cent in October. The charter flight will prove the opportunity for scheduled flights and a direct service that will also appeal to exporters and importers."
China Southern general manager New Zealand Mike Ma said the airline was confident seats on the charter flight would be keenly sought after.
"We're delighted to bring the February charter to Christchurch, which we recognise as the gateway to the spectacular South Island," Ma said.
"So many of our travellers want to see and experience all the South Island has to offer."
The flight would leave Guangzhou on February 2 and arrive in Christchurch early on February 3, returning to China the same day, Ma said.
The charter flight will carry 228 passengers in a three-class cabin configuration.
Boult said the airport had been in discussions with China Southern for some time. It was confident the success of the charter would encourage China Southern airline managers to confirm regular scheduled services.
"Like us, the airline knows how much Chinese travellers want to visit the South Island.
"Images of the South Island bring Chinese travellers to this country and they love flying in over the Southern Alps and seeing the scenery themselves.
"We will work with all stakeholders and tourism operators to ensure the February charter flight will be the first China Southern Christchurch arrival of many."
China Southern Airlines is based in Guangzhou and operates the largest fleet and most developed network for any airline in The People's Republic of China.