China Eastern Airlines will fly year round between Auckland and Shanghai as air links between the two countries expand rapidly.

The four flights a week service will start in September.

China Eastern operated a seasonal service for the first time on the Auckland-Shanghai route from December last year to this month and that proved successful enough to step it up to year-round.

Auckland Airport's general manager aeronautical commercial Norris Carter said the service would add 100,000 seats per year on the route, contributing an estimated $122 million to the New Zealand economy.


"We have experienced great growth in Chinese visitors travelling to New Zealand during the peak season, with the 2015 Chinese New Year setting a record for Chinese arrivals to New Zealand," said Carter.

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China was New Zealand's second biggest tourism market behind Australia, with overall Chinese passenger arrivals increasing by 14.1 between 2013 and 2014.

"As well as this, the growth in quality free independent travellers (FITs) and group tours travelling direct from China to New Zealand, has seen Chinese spend in New Zealand grow to $4100 per visitor."

China Eastern's general manager Oceania, Kathy Zhang, said New Zealand was continuing to evolve in its popularity as a destination for Chinese travellers.

"We are excited to further grow our relationships in New Zealand and look forward to continued strong demand in this market."

The service will provide competition on the Shanghai route where Air New Zealand is upgrading to daily use of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from August.

Today's announcement follows the release of details of plans by another mainland carrier, Air China, to fly direct flights between Auckland and Beijing in an alliance with Air New Zealand.


That 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 daily Shanghai-Auckland service.

Another Chinese mainland carrier, China Southern Airlines, is increasing frequency on its Auckland-Guangzhou route later this year in response to high demand.

The airline has grown from just three times a week four years ago and will shift to double daily from August.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has plans to boost its service to Auckland later next year using the world's newest widebody jet, the Airbus A350XWB.