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Sichuan Airlines takes flight in New Zealand after 4 years


New Zealand is rejoicing at the return of Sichuan Airlines, marking the arrival of the first flight since its suspension in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reopening of the Chengdu-Auckland route now adds to the existing direct flight options provided by five Chinese airlines, offering a significant boost to trade and tourism. CGTN’s Owen Poland brings further insight into this development.

After a hiatus of four years, Sichuan Airlines made its triumphant return to New Zealand, greeted with a traditional welcome for VIPs upon their arrival.

China has played a pivotal role in aiding New Zealand’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which had previously halted vital tourism and education links. However, these avenues are now fully operational once again.

Melanie Dooley from Auckland International Airport highlighted the positive impact of the increased flight capacity post-COVID, providing more travel opportunities for both Chinese and New Zealand passengers.

Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Xiaolong, expressed confidence that the resumption of flights would foster greater development opportunities in tourism, culture, education, airports, and other industries for both nations.

Although tourism and education sectors have been slow to rebound from the pandemic, the return of Sichuan flights is expected to inject fresh momentum into people-to-people exchanges.

Owen Poland notes that with the return of Sichuan Airlines, there are now six carriers operating a total of 36 direct flights per week between China and New Zealand, offering travelers more options and potentially boosting two-way trade.

In Auckland, the Sichuan Government hosted an economic, trade, and promotion conference to explore business opportunities and promote a regional market encompassing nearly 500 million people.

Alastair Crozier, Executive Director of the New Zealand China Council, emphasised the potential of Sichuan Province’s economy and welcomed events like the conference to explore opportunities in southwest China.

Over the years, China has emerged as New Zealand’s largest market for kiwifruit, with sales expected to increase by 40% this year. There are discussions about the possibility of New Zealand cultivating fruit in China to meet the growing demand.

Craig Thompson, Director of Zespri Group, expressed anticipation for establishing a robust growing base in Sichuan to supply high-quality fruit year-round.

Governor of Sichuan Province, Huang Qiang, looks forward to expanded economic and trade exchanges, noting that the resumed flights will facilitate quick market access to Sichuan and wider China for New Zealand’s quality products, including dairy, meat, and wine.

In conclusion, New Zealand’s winemakers, along with various sectors, eagerly anticipate the positive impact of the resumed flights.

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