18 December 2015
Asia’s largest airline has begun an historic year-round service between Guangzhou and Christchurch, with the first Dreamliner carrying several VIPs landing just before 5pm.
China Southern Airlines, in partnership with Christchurch Airport and the South Island tourism industry, will operate the direct service three times a week from today.
Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Malcolm Johns says history is being made because China Southern Airlines was the first Chinese carrier to fly to New Zealand and is now the first to fly to the South Island.
“Over the past decade we have watched China Southern Airlines steadily build Guangzhou into one of the world’s important international airport hubs. In doing so, the airline has also successfully built the Canton route, connecting Australia and New Zealand to China, Asia and Europe through Guangzhou.
“With this new service, Christchurch Airport, Christchurch city and the South Island have an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the Canton Route, bringing Chinese visitors here and helping South Islanders travel to China and beyond".Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Malcolm Johns
“It comes after two years of very focused work by the team at Christchurch Airport, working in China with the team at China Southern Airlines, to make this service a reality and I am exceedingly proud of how our team has represented the city and South Island on the international stage to achieve this outcome. Christchurch Airport has to compete hard for international air services as it is our share of international visitors using us as a gateway which provides the opportunity for growth given the size of our local population.
“This is a milestone day for the South Island. The new service offers more than 70,000 seats in its first year, which means an estimated growth in visitor spend of more than $100M across all southern regions.
“Government statistics show that when Christchurch is the entry point for international visitors, every South Island region benefits, because visitors on average leave around 85% of their spending in the South Island. This drops to less than 35% when the entry point is not Christchurch.
“Continually increasing numbers of Chinese visitors into the South Island through our gateway airport highlight how welcome this new airline service will be for travellers, as well as giving air freight needs a fresh option for access to the important Asian markets.”
The visitors on the inaugural flight were welcomed with a “water arch” over the plane after it touched down, a formal Maori welcome, Canterbury’s Cabinet Ministers and ten Mayors from around the South Island in attendance, short speeches and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Christchurch Airport continues to be New Zealand’s fastest growing point of entry for Chinese visitors with air services beyond Australia. While national figures grew 33% over the first 10 months in 2015, Christchurch Airport’s numbers grew 45%.