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Sichuan Airlines Returns, Bolstering Auckland Airport Connections To China

Published: Wed 17 Apr 2024 01:21 PM
Auckland Airport welcomes back a full complement of Chinese airlines with the return of Sichuan Airlines, which along with new routes signals China’s growing confidence in long-haul travel.
Sichuan Airlines’ touchdown in Auckland from Chengdu Tianfu International Airport this afternoon after four years marks the sixth airline connecting New Zealand to China.
Scott Tasker, Chief Customer Officer at Auckland Airport, said there will be seven destinations in China available to travellers from April, collectively flying 36 times a week and representing seat capacity recovery of 115% compared to 2019, over the New Zealand winter season.
“We are seeing that Chinese airlines have confidence in the travel market between New Zealand and China, bringing high-value Chinese visitors who see us as a highly attractive destination to visit.”
The expectation is that Chinese travellers who have been sticking closer to home – with short-haul destinations favoured last year - are wanting to spread their wings further in 2024. The popular travel month of February for Chinese New Year saw 38,000 visitors from China, a 74% recovery compared to same month in 2019.
The upward momentum demonstrates New Zealand is still a highly attractive long-haul destination for those wanting the unique Kiwi experience, and the make-up of Chinese visitors continues towards a trend of independent travellers who will spend more time here and venture further afield than main centres.
Independent travellers from China made up 85% of inbound visitors in Q4 2023 (up from 71% in 2019) while 15% opted for group tours (compared to 29% in 2019).
Mr Tasker said the new routes of Haikou from Hainan Airlines and Hangzhou from China Eastern Airlines provide even more ways for New Zealand Chinese to connect with friends and family.
“We have close to 300,000 Chinese living in New Zealand who want to visit family and the Chinese airlines flying into New Zealand have significant connecting hubs which travellers can use to reach North and Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom and Europe. That provides more competition and choice for travellers.”
The return of Sichuan Airlines from Chengdu also means visitors to China have a gateway to the province famous for one of the four great traditions of Chinese food, and an important location for the breeding and safe refuge of endangered giant pandas.
Mr Tasker said this expansion of routes to New Zealand’s number one trading partner was also good news for export businesses, with direct air connections enabling high value products to be efficiently delivered into markets where they can attract the highest price.
“With the bellyhold of passenger aircraft traditionally providing 80% of Auckland Airport’s air freight capacity, over the next six months, we expect 12,000 tonnes of air freight capacity to be available for exporters to send high-value goods to discerning Chinese consumers,” he said.
“These expanded routes and resumption of Sichuan Airlines' flights will not only reunite families and friends but also serve as bridges connecting our peoples, cultures and economies. We can expect to see a boost in economic activity and opportunities on both ends.”
Notes:Auckland Airport is hosting an arrival event to welcome the return of Sichuan Airlines on 17 Apr, attended by the Governor of Sichuan Province, and Vice Chairman of Sichuan Airlines.In April 2023, inbound Chinese visitors coming for a holiday overtook those visiting friends and relatives for the first time and that continues to be the case, with holiday travellers making up 63% in the last quarter, with 21% visiting friends and relatives and 7% coming for business.In 2019, 17,800 visitors arrived in New Zealand from Sichuan Province, of which 85% for holiday.
Auckland-China flights at a glance:Air China to Beijing 4 x week (7 x week in July)Air New Zealand to Shanghai 7 x weekChina Eastern to Shanghai 7 x week & (new route) Hangzhou (via Sydney) 4 x weekChina Southern to Guangzhou 7 x week (14 x week in July)Hainan Airlines to (new route) Haikou 3 x week and Shenzhen 3 x weekSichuan Airlines to Chengdu 1 x week

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