18 Jul 2011

Airports welcome new air service agreements

7:57 am on 18 July 2011

A group representing New Zealand's airports says attracting passengers from lucrative high-growth markets like China and Brazil may take a few years, but it will provide a real boost to trade and tourism.

The Government last week announced plans to negotiate new and improved air service agreements.

The agreements are needed before airlines can operate services within other countries' air space.

New Zealand already has 48 such deals in place, but the Government wants to remove restrictions on some of the current agreements, and begin negotiations with more countries.

The Airports Association represents most of New Zealand's commercial airports. Chief executive Kevin Ward says the agreements are potentially very valuable and crucial to attracting more carriers and boosting passenger numbers.

He says economists have estimated the introduction of China Southern Airlines flying from Guangzhou to Auckland will mean 50,000 new visitors each year and $150 million for the New Zealand economy.

Mr Ward says that the airline AirAsia X flying into the South Island is worth about $60 million to the New Zealand economy each year.

He expects the Government to focus on strengthening and signing new agreements with high-growth countries first.

Mr Ward says the Chinese market is a huge one and the existing agreement will reach capacity very soon.

He says Brazil has had a low profile in this part of the world, but the Brazilian and Asian economies are linking more and more.

Mr Ward says it would be worth developing that route because it is two high growth areas that will be doing more business and connecting more in the future.

He says a lot of hard work goes into signing new air service agreements, so it could be a few years before airlines from new destinations touch down in New Zealand.