Air China has announced plans for direct flights to Beijing from Auckland as part of a strategic alliance with Air New Zealand.
The proposed service would be in addition to Air New Zealand's existing Shanghai-Auckland service.
Air New Zealand ditched its twice weekly Beijing service in 2012 to concentrate on Shanghai.
The two airlines today signed a statement of intent as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to New Zealand.
The alliance remains subject to regulatory approval which will be sought after the airlines have further talks early next year.
In addition to a new route, an alliance between the carriers would bring significant benefits to customers travelling in both directions - including better network connections in both China and New Zealand and increased frequency of flights.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said a deeper bilateral agreement between the two airlines would help to facilitate both business and tourism links between the two countries.
"China is New Zealand's second largest inbound visitor market and we expect interest in visiting New Zealand to continue to grow amongst Chinese travellers."
New Zealand government figures released today show spending by Chinese visitors was up a third on the year to September, compared to the previous 12 months, reaching a record $979 million.
Luxon said China remained a "challenging" market to operate to.
"Working with a strong, well respected home market carrier like Air China would give us a huge opportunity to convert this potential growth, while jointly offering the additional capacity to support it."
New Zealand businesses and tourists would also benefit from a direct link to China's capital and attractions.
Air China is the national flag carrier of China and one of the three big carriers in that country.
It has a fleet of 316 aircraft used on 323 routes, including 79 international, 15 regional and 229 domestic services.
Air China chief executive Song Zhiyong said Air China was committed to being a global hub carrier and alliances and partnerships are an important way to expand its international network.
In the past three years there had been double digit annual growth in the number of Chinese outbound tourists, he said.
"New Zealand is one of the most important markets for outbound travel from China and Air China is confident about the promising future of this market, particularly considering the airline's close ties with Air New Zealand."
Air New Zealand and Air China are both members of the Star Alliance grouping of 27 airlines which carry about a quarter of all airline passengers.
The number of air services to China is surging this summer.
China Southern has increased services between Auckland and Guangzhou to two a day and will use a larger, new 777-300 on the route. The third big Chinese carrier, China Eastern is starting a seasonal service to Shanghai, building to daily flights in January.