Boeing's high-tech Dreamliner aircraft will start flying to New Zealand next year after a deal between Auckland International Airport and Continental Airlines.

The 228-seat 787 Dreamliner will start flying non-stop from Houston in the United States to Auckland on November 16, 2011, subject to Government approval.

Auckland is the first route to be announced globally for the Dreamliner.

About half the plane is made from lightweight composites, such as carbon fibre. Boeing says it is 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than other similar-sized planes.

Continental planned to fly daily, reducing to five flights a week at times.

Auckland Airport said the service would introduce about 140,000 more seats a year between the US and New Zealand - worth up to $150 million to the tourism industry.

Airport chief executive Simon Moutter said the new route opened up an exciting market opportunity to New Zealand.

"Houston is a central American hub that offers access to a wide range of North American destinations that we think will prove extremely attractive to travellers."

The Auckland airport had visited 85 different countries in the past year and made 50 business cases to various airlines.

Continental vice-president network strategy Greg Hart praised the airport's work in "building a strong business case for this route, introducing Continental to the right Kiwi market partners and ultimately proving [it] is viable for us".

Air New Zealand group general manager international airline Ed Sims said the airline welcomed the competition.

"I welcome Continental in that they're a fellow Star Alliance carrier so there's clearly good opportunity there to work with them on code-share arrangements."

Air New Zealand said it code-shared on more than 540 flights a week to and from Continental's main hubs.

"We had been looking closely at direct services to Texas utilising the 787-9 but with the three-year delay to this aircraft we will be code-sharing on the Continental Airlines 787-8 service," Sims said.

Air New Zealand and Tourism NZ would between them invest about $130 million in the US market during the next four years, with a target to increase annual visitor numbers from 200,000 to 300,000 over five years, possibly worth between $1 billion and $2 billion to the economy, Sims said.

Tourism Auckland chief executive Graeme Osborne the focus was on growing rather than subdividing the market.

"Frankly my view is this is a very happy concurrence with a friendly party."

New Zealand had never really hit the "sweet spot" in the US as a destination, Osborne said.

"This added focus, this added marketing spend ... this additional route that's just been announced, I think it can only be positive going forward."