Air China has flagged starting services to Auckland as part of a proposed strategic alliance with Air New Zealand.
The two carriers signed a statement of intent on Friday, coinciding with the visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to New Zealand.
In a joint statement, the two Star Alliance carriers said they expected to submit their applications for regulatory approval to the relevant authorities in early 2015.
“The proposed alliance between the two national flag carriers and Star Alliance partners would see Air China operate a new direct Beijing-Auckland service in addition to Air New Zealand’s existing Shanghai-Auckland service,” the airlines said.
Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon said the proposed partnership would benefit consumers and boost business and tourism links between the two countries.
“China remains a challenging market for us to operate to,” Luxon said in a statement on Friday.
“Working with a strong, well respected home market carrier like Air China would give us a huge opportunity to convert this potential growth, while jointly offering the additional capacity to support it.”
Currently, Air NZ currently flies between Auckland and Shanghai, while Air China does not serve New Zealand with its own metal.
In terms of other carriers operating between mainland China and New Zealand, China Eastern will operate a seasonal Auckland-Shanghai service over the upcoming summer holidays, while China Southern serves Auckland from its Guangzhou Hub.
Air China chief executive Song Zhiyong said alliances and partnerships would help the airline serve more international destinations and support its quest to become a global hub carrier.
“New Zealand is one of the most important markets for outbound travel from China,” Song said.
“Air China is confident about the promising future of this market, particularly considering the airline’s close ties with Air New Zealand, an innovative airline full of vitality and dynamism.”
Air New Zealand and Air China’s proposed partnership follows Qantas and China Eastern’s plans to form a joint-venture on Australia-China routes which were announced on Monday.