Competition for air travel between New Zealand and China is set to intensify with plans by Air China to fly daily direct flights between Auckland and Beijing this year.
The airline yesterday released details of a proposed deal with Air New Zealand which could result in services starting in December if an alliance with Air New Zealand is approved.
The proposed service - which Auckland Airport estimates could be worth $200 million in tourism spending to this country - would be in addition to Air New Zealand's existing Shanghai-Auckland service. Air New Zealand pulled out of its struggling twice-weekly Beijing service in 2012 to concentrate on Shanghai.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said the alliance with Air China would see two home carriers with complementary strengths at each end of the route working together to drive traffic in both directions.
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"This proposed alliance brings New Zealand and China closer as our two countries enter the next phase of what is a very strong relationship."
China is one of this country's fastest-growing tourist markets.
"By connecting the Chinese capital with New Zealand again we would provide tourists and business travellers with unparalleled air connectivity between and within each home market," Luxon said.
The entry of Air China will intensify competition into mainland China. China Southern Airlines is to double its daily flights to Guangzhou year round from August and China Eastern ran seasonal services to Auckland from Shanghai during summer.
Air China chief executive Song Zhiyong said the relationship between China and New Zealand was entering a new phase with significant achievements having already been made in economic development and cultural as well as political exchanges in recent years.
"The proposed alliance with Air New Zealand allows both flag carriers to build a sustainable air service between Beijing and Auckland and supplement the existing connectivity."
The Chinese flag carrier would continue to codeshare on Air New Zealand's daily Shanghai to Auckland service, which from August will use Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.