Low-cost Malaysian airline AirAsia X will soon start flying a long-haul route between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the deal, announced last night, was fantastic news for Christchurch travel and tourism.

"We are looking at up to 70,000 more visitors a year, bringing in an estimated $70 to $80 million more to the region and creating hundreds of new jobs."

AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani said the choice of Christchurch - over Auckland - as its first New Zealand port reflected its "great destinational appeal".

"Christchurch Airport put up a great business case for why we should come south. We were impressed with the potential and the quality of tourism experiences available in the South Island."

Christchurch International Airport, Christchurch City Council, Tourism NZ and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Malaysia had been working on the deal for two years, said airport chief executive Jim Boult.

He was delighted with the result, and said details would be released soon.

With its parent company, Air Asia, AirAsia X has a network of 130 routes covering 75 destinations.

Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said the deal was a positive development for not only Christchurch but for the wider New Zealand economy.

"We are sure this service will stimulate a new wave of budget conscious travellers to our shore from not only this corner of Asia s but also from the other international ports AirAsia X's services connect with in Kuala Lumpur."

- NZPA