New Zealand has signed an air services agreement with Colombia and is making progress in a range of deals that will make it easier to travel to countries in Central America, Africa and Europe.

Negotiations are also under way with China, where the maximum number of flights has almost been reached and more Chinese airlines are ''banging on the door'', said Transport Minister Simon Bridges.

''Early today an air services agreement was signed with Colombia which provides opportunities for code-sharing between each nation's airlines. Under the new arrangements, New Zealand and Colombian airlines may operate up to 14 passenger services per week, with no limits on the number of cargo services.''

Although the agreements don't guarantee flights, they are essential for services if airlines see an economic case to start them.


Bridges said strengthening links with South America had been a priority since new air services started with Air New Zealand's first direct flight to Buenos Aires in December 2015.

New Zealand now has air services agreements with Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay in South America.

"New Zealand is well placed as a stop-over point between South America and Asia. Building air links with Colombia - South America's fourth-largest economy - broadens opportunities for people to explore New Zealand before continuing their travel elsewhere.''

The government also has preliminary deals with Belize, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in Central America that could provide for code-share deals between Air New Zealand and United Airlines to streamline links with those countries.

There have also been enhancements to agreements with Spain and Italy, which will allow Air New Zealand to code share into Milan.

The amendment to the Spanish agreement will permit New Zealand airlines to offer services to all destinations in Spain. Similarly, Spanish airlines may offer services to all destination points in New Zealand.

New Zealand is also negotiating with Poland, seen as a market with much potential.

''Europe is a real focus. Although a mature market there are very strong economic and tourism links,'' Bridges told the Herald.


There were also enhancements to a deal with Kenya as a result of negotiations at the International Civil Aviation Negotiation Conference in the Bahamas last December.

New Zealand attracted 3.5 million visitors in the past year and the influx of tourists is straining some tourist infrastructure.

Bridges said more government moves would address this.

''The answer is not to turn off the tap. As an island nation, New Zealand relies heavily on its international air links. We'll continue to build on these connections," said Bridges.

New Zealand now has 61 air service agreements with other countries and territories and Bridges said more new air services opportunities will be announced this year.

"New Zealand's approach to liberalising air services has allowed for an open, competitive market, facilitating increased air traffic, lower air fares and stronger international trade links.''