AUCKLAND - The inaugural flight to New Zealand by China Southern Airlines arrived in Auckland on Saturday, launching a three-flight-a-week direct service that is being highlighted as a significant opportunity for New Zealand's tourism sector and economy.
Aboard flight CZ305 was a 100 strong delegation including airline and tourism officials, who were welcomed by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Xu Jianguo and Joan Withers, chairwoman of Auckland International Airport, Simon Moutter, Chief Executive, Auckland International Airport.
As the third largest airline in the world and Asia's biggest, the arrival of China Southern Airlines will provide a direct link between the twin cities of Guangzhou, China, and Auckland, flying A330-200, 218-seat passenger aircraft.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who also serves as tourism minister, told Xinhua on Saturday that the direct flight is of great significance to New Zealand's tourism market, and will also strengthen bilateral trade. In 2010, Chinese tourist arrivals increased 20 percent to 123,000. He said he attached great importance to the tourism market in China and believed the direct flight will promote tourism cooperation between the two countries.
Simon Moutter, Chief Executive of Auckland International Airport, said the timing of the arrival is a significant milestone for the airport and will benefit New Zealand by furthering important visitor, education and business connections between the two countries.
"With NZ$18.6 billion ($14.5 billion) already contributed to the New Zealand economy by tourism we are constantly looking at new destinations and growth markets to fuel the country's wide ranging economy and extensive tourism sector. It is anticipated that the new service will bring in an extra 25,000 visitors per year and generate NZ$75 million of additional value," he said.
"China and its people are increasingly important to New Zealand. And for business we can't ignore the potential of the Chinese market, with an economy growing on average 8 percent over the last four years and with over 1.3 billion people. Increased air-links with China will boost NZ tourism, business and trade, especially following the signing in 2008 of the NZ/China free trade agreement, the first between China and a developed nation. There is no doubt this new route will support our economy at an important time," said Moutter.
China Southern Airlines flight CZ306 is scheduled to leave Auckland on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2200hrs. The return flight, CZ305, leaves Guangzhou at 23:50 (local time), and arrives in Auckland at 15:20 the following day. Flights depart Guangzhou Baiyun airport on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The new route will improve access across China, through the airline's Guangzhou hub, with travelers not needing to change airlines when traveling further into the country.
Kevin Bowler, Chief Executive Tourism New Zealand highlighted the benefits of the new route:"The partnership with China Southern Airlines is highly valued and welcome news for New Zealand's tourism sector. We are committed to providing ongoing support for this new route and look forward to welcoming a greater number of visitors, not only from southern China but from throughout China," he said.
China Southern Airlines operates a modern fleet of over 400 Boeing and Airbus aircraft and flies to 34 cities across China. The A330-200 aircraft to be operated between Auckland and Guangzhou will feature 142 economy seats, 48 Premium Economy class seats, 24 business class and 4 first class. Flying time to Guangzhou is approximately 11.5 hours.