Auckland Airport welcomes back a full complement of Chinese airlines with the return of Sichuan Airlines.

Sichuan Airlines’ touchdown in Auckland from Chengdu Tianfu International airport after four years marks the sixth airline connecting New Zealand to China.

The service is currently scheduled once a week only, arriving into Auckland on Saturdays and departing on Sundays. Sichuan Airlines deploys its two-class Airbus A350-900 on the route with 1-2-1 lie-flat business class seating.

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 per cent compared to 2019, over the New Zealand winter season.

Independent travellers from China made up 85 per cent of inbound visitors in Q4 2023 (up from 71 per cent in 2019) while 15 per cent opted for group tours (compared to 29 per cent in 2019).

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.”

Currently, Air China flies to Auckland from Beijing four times a week, increasing to daily in July.

China Eastern Airlines is flying daily between Shanghai and Auckland and is launching a new four-weekly Auckland-Hangzhou route via Sydney.

China Southern Airlines is operating daily flights to Guangzhou, increasing to double daily in July.

Hainan Airlines is launching a new three weekly service to Haikou and another three times a week service to Shenzhen.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is retaining its daily Auckland-Shanghai service.