A cut-price Asian airline is promising the "cheapest international airfares New Zealand has seen" when it launches in Christchurch today.

Malaysia-based AirAsia X will begin its first foray into the New Zealand market with the launch in Cathedral Square at 12.30pm.

The low-budget carrier flies from Kuala Lumpur to a host of Asian, Middle Eastern and European destinations, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

Tickets between Christchurch and Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, go on sale on Friday. They were expected to sell for less than $200 one-way, The Press reported today.


Flights between Christchurch and London could cost as little as $1000.

The first AirAsia X flights were due to arrive in March or April.

Flight Centre national product manager James Brooker said AirAsia X airfares could be so cheap travellers from other major centres would now fly through Christchurch.

"We welcome anything that brings competition, and this will certainly do that."

Ferrymead United Travel broker Ted Clarke said he did not think the airline would make a big difference to the market, as travellers had their favourites.