Chengdu joins list of direct flights from major Chinese cities to NZ

A seventh Chinese airline has permission to fly here.

A seventh Chinese airline is heading for New Zealand and has permission to start services by the end of the year.

If it does so, Sichuan Airlines will be the fourth Chinese carrier to launch services over the next two months.

Hong Kong Airlines will be flying into Auckland from November 10, followed by Tianjin Airlines and Hainan Airlines in December.

Sichuan Airlines is based in Chengdu, one of China’s largest inland cities, and has been flying internationally since June 2012.

Its first international destination was Vancouver, followed by Melbourne in February 2013.

Like the other Chinese carriers mentioned, it will use an Airbus A330 aircraft on its direct non-stop Chengdu-Auckland service.

The airline has made no official announcement of the service and bookings haven’t opened yet.

But the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has given its approval for three weekly flights using a 301-seat, two-class Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

This will add about 80,000 seats annually to capacity between China and New Zealand and be worth $100 million a year to the tourism industry.

It is possible the new route will also touch down at Hangzhou, in southern China, as all large cities in China are under pressure to build their international networks.

Sichuan’s major shareholders are the provincial government (40%) and China Southern Airlines (39%).

China Southern is one of China’s three major international carriers – the others being Air China and China Eastern Airlines – that already fly to Auckland and Christchurch.

This huge growth in Chinese airlines coming here means direct flights will soon be available to seven cities, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai. Tianjin (and Chongqing), Shenzhen (and Xi’an) as well as Hong Kong and possibly Hangzhou. Each of these has a population many times that of New Zealand.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect China Southern's daily service to Christchurch (not seasonal as earlier reported) and the possibility of Hangzhou being part of the Chengdu-Auckland route.