The newest long-haul airline into New Zealand, Air China, has landed in Auckland restoring a direct link to Beijing.
Air New Zealand flew a twice-weekly direct service to Beijing until 2012 but has now entered into a deal with the Chinese airline.
Air China is using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the route which is part of its international expansion to meet growing demand from Chinese tourists.
The aircraft has 204 economy-class seats and 30 in business and while the airline says it expects to appeal mainly to its home market where it has loyal flyers who know the brand well, it also hoped to attract New Zealand travellers wanting to go to Beijing and beyond on the Air China network.
The airline has been flying to Australia for just over 30 years. General manager for Air China Australia and New Zealand, Jie Rui, said the expansion into this country was a "crucial part" of the airline's global strategy. It was expanding into the Americas and to new destinations in Africa.
The flights are part of a deal with Air New Zealand which will continue its Shanghai-Auckland service.
Air China had briefly flown here in 2000 as an add-on to its Sydney services but the new daily service was part of a deeper commitment to this region.
Jie said the airline would consider upgauging to a Boeing 787-9 if there was sufficient demand.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said Beijing could be a great stopover spot for Kiwis.
"New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit China if they are staying less than 72 hours".