China Southern Airlines accelerates direct flights between Auckland and Guangzhou

12 January 2011

Auckland Airport today hailed the decision by China Southern Airlines to launch its new Guangzhou to Auckland service in April 2011 direct, rather than via Melbourne as was originally announced on 13 December 2010.

Auckland Airport chief executive Simon Moutter said: "Today’s news is a terrific outcome for New Zealand tourism and for the wider national economy, providing important new direct air links with China and marking the entry to our market by the largest airline in Asia.

"In line with our strategic focus, Auckland Airport is totally committed to growing the number of direct air links with China as quickly as possible to help ensure New Zealand gets its fair share of the fastest growing tourism market in the world,” said Mr Moutter. “Having one of the biggest airlines in the world going direct sooner than planned is a fantastic result that will drive more visitors here and offer them more time to see what our country has to offer."

The first of the three times a week direct services is scheduled to commence on 8 April 2011. They will depart Guangzhou at 23:50 and arrive in Auckland at 15:20 the next day, and depart Auckland at 22:00 and arrive in Guangzhou at 06:00 the next day. Flights will depart Auckland on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

"This schedule provides a convenient overnight service and offers excellent connectivity with China Southern Airlines’ extensive network both internationally and throughout China. We believe this timing will help enable rapid development of visitor traffic at both ends of the service," said Mr Moutter.

Mr. Tan Wan’geng, President & CEO of China Southern Airlines, confirmed the widespread support received from the New Zealand/Auckland tourism industry and government officials while in the country during December 2010 was pivotal to the airline’s decision to move immediately to direct services.

"The strong potential of the partnership between China and New Zealand was reinforced by everyone we met. This gave us the confidence that the New Zealand market opportunity will be a great success and can lead to even greater opportunities for China Southern Airlines and our partners in the region," said Mr Tan. “Although we always envisaged moving eventually to direct flights if the service via Melbourne proved successful, we have now decided to make this commitment from day one.”

Tourism New Zealand CEO Kevin Bowler was also pleased. "It's very satisfying to start the New Year with such welcome news", said Mr Bowler. "This decision has been the product of a lot of hard work by many parties, and provides a significant springboard for developing the China market further.

“The China visitor market is critical to New Zealand as the growth in the number of Chinese with the means and inclination to travel internationally is booming. Expectations are that the number of international departures from China will double in five years, from 50 million to 100 million travellers.

“Attracting visitors from southern China specifically to holiday in New Zealand has always been challenging due to a lack of airline capacity yet Guangdong region is a power house of Chinese industry, it has the third highest GDP per capita. It is a mature market in terms of travel selections and travel style expectations and New Zealand as a distinct holiday destination has a lot to offer. With the move to establish direct services from Guangdong that make it easier for travellers from across China to visit New Zealand, there is significant potential for us to attract longer staying visitors and to grow China into our third largest tourism market.”

The new services via Melbourne were estimated to inject at least $50 million annually into the local visitor economy, but Mr Moutter said China Southern Airline’s decision to fly direct now meant the annual economic impact was likely to be at least $75 million.

"The additional visitors and longer stays typically generated by direct air services translates into more dollars for the visitor economy. More importantly, we know that increased air links drive much broader economic activity. Today’s announcement will help deepen the strong business links between New Zealand and China, which will in turn lead to even more opportunities and help drive demand for more air services.”