The airline plans to cancel its direct seasonal flights to Tokyo. They currently operate between Christchurch and Narita International Airport over the southern summer months.
The airline told Fairfax media in New Zealand it was adding more flights on the Tokyo-Auckland route instead, responding to research which indicated visitors had “no clear preference to fly into Christchurch”.
Air New Zealand said it accepted the decision would disappoint Christchurch tourism stakeholders, but claimed the impact on the total number of seats the airline will operate into Christchurch would be minimal.
The airline’s move is likely to hit tourism in Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region. Tourists flying into Auckland and then deciding to go to the South Island may just fly to Queenstown, whereas if they fly straight into Christchurch they may stay and look around.
Air New Zealand operated year-round direct flights from Christchurch to Tokyo from 2004 to 2009, before cutting back to a summer service.
Christchurch, battered in early 2011 by a tremendous earthquake which killed 185 people and destroyed many buildings, has been striving ever since to restore its tourism industry.
Last year, Air NZ announced plans to cut several regional services, including services to Westport, Kaitaia and Whakatane from April and its Hamilton-to-Auckland route from February 2016.
The founder of defunct New Zealand low-cost carrier Kiwi Travel International Airlines is planning to launch a new domestic carrier to fill gaps that Air New Zealand does not adequately cover.
Written by : Peter Needham