China Southern Airlines will fly from Guangzhou to Auckland via Melbourne starting in April. The airline had previously indicated it would start service to New Zealand via Brisbane starting last month.
Air New Zealand flies a combined five times a week to Beijing and Shanghai but there is more than enough traffic to make the extra flight viable.
China Southern’s service will use a 284-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft, adding 88,000 seats a year to the market, including the trans-Tasman route.
It was hoped that the demand will be enough that the three-times-a-week services would expand to a daily schedule followed by direct Auckland to Guangzhou flights by the end of the next year.
Stuff.co.nz reports that at the moment, 90% of Chinese visitors to New Zealand come via Australia. Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler said the service would open the southern Chinese market to New Zealand for the first time.