The Government is negotiating a unified air services agreement with a group of South East Asian countries which it says could open up more flights and lead to better deals for travellers.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford says two days of talks between officials from this country and those from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have begun.

While New Zealand has negotiated individual air services agreements with each of the ten ASEAN member states, they are complex and there are differences between them, Twyford said.

"This could mean more destinations, more flights, and better airfares for Kiwis travelling to South East Asia in the future.''

Advertisement

A single regional agreement would raise the overall quality of air services within the region, ensure a consistent set of rules for air travel, and create new growth opportunities for ASEAN and New Zealand airlines.

The members of ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Vietnam Airlines has looked at flying to New Zealand before. Photo / Grant Bradley
Vietnam Airlines has looked at flying to New Zealand before. Photo / Grant Bradley

Direct air links are well established between New Zealand and Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia (Bali) but flights to other countries are indirect and may be some way off.

The country-to-country deal with fast-growing Vietnam resulted in short-lived seasonal services by Air New Zealand to Ho Chi Minh City and while Vietnam Airlines has looked at flying here it has no plans to do so.

Twyford is meeting Cambodia's Minister in Charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, Minister Mao Havanall.

Twyford said ASEAN is a vital partner in the region and we want to strengthen our ties with South East Asia.

The current air service agreements with ASEAN countries have contributed to the growth of tourism in New Zealand, with visitors from South East Asia nearly doubling since 2013 to over 210,000 last year.

"A regional agreement would make it even easier for visitors to come to New Zealand, further fuelling this growth.''

Advertisement

"This growth in visitor numbers is only possible through the air services arrangements we have put in place, which makes improving them vital to growing the tourism sector," Phil Twyford said.

A Cambodia Angkor Air A320 at Ho Chi Minh City's airport. Aviation is booming in the region. Photo / Grant Bradley
A Cambodia Angkor Air A320 at Ho Chi Minh City's airport. Aviation is booming in the region. Photo / Grant Bradley

Traditionally, air services are negotiated on a country-by-country basis, resulting in an international aviation system governed by over 3000 such agreements.

The agreements often do not align, meaning lost opportunities. The value of an agreement with one country is reduced if complementary rights have not been secured with another country.

Each bilateral agreement also creates a unique regulatory environment for airlines, for example, concerning customs procedures, the setting up of local offices and sending earnings back to home countries.

Because the various agreements differ in detail, airlines have to comply with varying requirements thereby creating costs and complexity. Regional air service agreements cut down on this complexity.

The country's programme of international air services negotiations, based on the principle of open skies, means that most of the world's major airlines can fly to New Zealand without restriction.

New Zealand has over 80 air services relationships.