Talks pave way for new routes to up to 10 nations

New Zealand is finalising a large number of air services deals, which will open up potential new routes around the world.

Last month Ministry of Transport negotiators met international counterparts in Bali, reaching a new deal with China, with up to nine other countries still being considered by the Cabinet and to be announced shortly.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said while the doubling of allowable services to China was "the most significant" deal to be done, it was part of a bigger story on the strategy. New Zealand wanted to build on the pace and scale of air service agreements and arrangements.

"We'd like to see, a bit like in free trade, a move from the bilateral to the multi-lateral," Bridges said.

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"New Zealand has the capacity to show some leadership on that front, moving the world from a complex set of bilateral arrangements to a broader, more simple picture."

The Bali talks had allowed links with China to rise to 42 flights a week from each country from just seven flights in 2004.

While airlines need a compelling commercial case to start a route - which with aircraft investment can cost $100 million or more - Bridges said countries needed to create the framework to allow them to fly here.

"You maximise the opportunities for the players if you have the most liberalised set of arrangements with the states that they're tied into."

The Government owns just over 50 per cent of Air New Zealand but its policies were aimed at attracting competitor airlines in many cases.

"[Our] policies are very clear - we're pursuing a strategy of the most liberal set of air services agreements that we can achieve as long as they're reciprocal," Bridges said.

"While Air New Zealand once may have been skeptical about that approach, that's no longer the case."

Several of the arrangements were aimed at getting more people from countries Air NZ didn't serve and some would specifically benefit the airline "including for example over time, a strategy into Latin America".

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Flight deals
• Since 2008 there have been 14 new air services agreements.
• 25 air services arrangements have also been amended.