Travellers are the likely winners as a new strategic alliance between Air New Zealand and Air China gets the official sign-off.
The two airlines signalled their intentions to enter into an alliance when China’s President Xi Jinping visited New Zealand late last year.
The two national carriers will codeshare on each others’ services between New Zealand and China, under the alliance signed off by Transport Minister Simon Bridges.
The alliance will compete with existing services operated by China Southern, China Eastern and Cathay Pacific.
“This alliance means travellers will be able to access more flights and lower fares between New Zealand and Beijing and Shanghai, ensuring they have access to a greater range of choices,” Bridges said.
“In addition to expanding services, the alliance will mean Air China will actively market New Zealand as a visitor destination.”
The alliance will also boost airline capacity between Auckland and mainland China by more than 25%, according to Air NZ.
The NZ carrier will continue to operate daily flights between Auckland and Shanghai, and Air China will operate a new daily direct service between Auckland and Beijing from December 10.
They will compete with services operated by China Southern, China Eastern and Cathay Pacific.
Air NZ says its customers will get better access to Air China’s comprehensive domestic network, while Air China customers will have enhanced access to Air NZ’s network including domestic New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands and South America.
Air NZ’s chief executive Christopher Luxon says the agreement between the two airlines will help deepen tourism and business connections between China and New Zealand.
“China is New Zealand’s second largest inbound visitor market and by collaborating with a strong, well-respected home market carrier like Air China we can work together to grow this market, and benefit customers through a new direct link between New Zealand and Beijing,” he said.
China is New Zealand’s second largest tourist market behind Australia and visitor arrivals are expected to double in the next five years.
Both airlines are members of Star Alliance.