China Southern will begin year-round scheduled services to Christchurch from its Guangzhou hub from December 2015.
The Skyteam alliance member says it will be the first Chinese carrier to serve NZ’s South Island.
“We are the first Chinese carrier to fly to New Zealand and now carry on that tradition by being the first to fly to the South Island,” China Southern president and chief executive Tan Wangeng said in a statement on Friday.
“Increasing numbers of Chinese arrivals into Christchurch Airport show the demand for the South Island, especially from the growing number of independent travellers who want to see and experience it.”
A China Southern spokesperson told Australian Aviation the first flight was due to take off on December 16, with the service expected three times a week using Boeing 787-8s.
China Southern currently serves Auckland in NZ’s North Island.
The airline’s arrival in Christchurch was flagged in early August, when China Southern senior vice president of global sales Li Dongliang told an aviation conference the airline was in talks with Christchurch Airport and local tourism authorities to launch a new nonstop service from Guangzhou by the end of 2015.
China Southern has flown charter flights to Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Cairns in previous years and these cities could receive scheduled flights at some point in the future, Li said. And the Skyteam member also flew charters to Fiji recently to “test the market”.
Li said the carrier’s current South Pacific network of five cities – Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – was “far from enough”.
“Our target is to offer flights to all major cities in the South Pacific,” Li told the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Australia Pacific Aviation Summit on August 5.
The new route, which is China Southern’s second destination in New Zealand, was announced by Christchurch Airport on Friday.
Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the new service would add 70,000 seats a year, support South Island tourism and offer a direct air freight link to China.
“We know from official government statistics that when the entry point is Christchurch every South Island region benefits, because visitors on average leave around 85 per cent of their spending in the South Island,” Johns said in a statement.
“This drops to less than 35 per cent when the entry point is not Christchurch.”
China Southern is also adding extra flights to Australia ahead of the peak summer holiday season.