McKinnon welcomes first non-stop China -NZ flight

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Tourism operators, exporters and education providers are set to benefit from direct flights between New Zealand and China, Foreign Minister Don McKinnon said today.

Mr McKinnon will welcome the first direct flight between China and New Zealand at Auckland International Airport this morning. On board the flight are a number of VIPS including Chinese tourism and government officials, industry representatives and media.

China Southwest Airlines, one of China's largest airlines has been given approval to operate a series of 32 flights from Beijing to Auckland from 30 July to 29 December.

Initially the services will be weekly but will be increased to twice weekly from 1 October.

"This is great news for many New Zealand industries including tourism, education and exporters," said Mr McKinnon.

"The Chinese market has huge potential. These first non-stop flights between out two countries are particularly significant given the recent decision to grant New Zealand 'approved destination status' for tourists from China.

"For the year ended May 1999, around seventeen and a half thousand Chinese visited New Zealand and 10,000 New Zealanders cited China as their destination of longest stay.

"Weekly contact will strengthen our relations and enable us to make unprecedented inroads into the immensely valuable Chinese market."

Mr McKinnon said that while this is a very positive development, he looked forward to scheduled services operating directly between New Zealand and China under the provisions of the New Zealand - China Air Transport Agreement. New Zealand officials are seeking to hold talks with their Chinese counterparts later this year.

In the meantime, we must praise this sort of initiative which makes New Zealand more accessible to the rest of the world.

China Southwest Airlines is based in the Chengdu Province. As well as an extensive domestic network it operates scheduled international services to Bangkok, Singapore, Nagoya and Kathmandu.

Contact: Jo Coughlan, Press Secretary 04 471 9811, 025 405 082, 04 473 3823 (home)

Please note media are invited to attend the welcoming ceremony at 10.45am for 11.05am flight arrival. Guests will go to Gate Lounge 8 to meet the aircraft. As it taxis to the gate the plane will pass through a water arch made by 2 Rescue Fire appliances (a traditional airport welcome). VIPs arriving on the flight will be met at the airbridge and will receive a Powhiri.