19 Apr 2012

Extra flights between China and NZ welcomed

10:46 am on 19 April 2012

A group representing New Zealand's airports says the tripling in the number of flights between China and New Zealand has come at the right time, with growing interest among Chinese in visiting New Zealand exhausting all spare capacity.

Last July, the Government started talks to improve existing air service agreements and initiate new ones with other countries in order to boost tourism and trade.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said a new agreement reached between China and New Zealand would allow up to 42 return flights a week split evenly between the countries.

Airports Association chief executive Kevin Ward says the old limit of 14 flights a week between the two countries had been used up and there is huge potential for growth in the Chinese market.

China Southern has started operating a daily service to Auckland from Guangzhou and Mr Ward expects more Chinese airlines will consider New Zealand as a destination.

Last month, Air New Zealand said it would revamp its service to China by reducing flights to Beijing and concentrating instead on Shanghai.

Mr Ward says getting agreements with other Asian countries should be a priority for officials.

An agreement between Auckland Airport and Indonesian airline Garuda has opened up that particular market, he says.

Agreements with other lucrative high-growth markets like India and Brazil are still at the early stages.

Chinese and New Zealand officials will meet in 2014 to consider whether restrictions on air service arrangements should be eased further.