A team representing Christchurch and New Zealand finalised a deal this evening with the world’s fastest growing low cost carrier, Air Asia X, to bring long-haul flights direct from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch.
The team included Christchurch International Airport (CIAL) CEO Jim Boult, CIAL General Manager Marketing and Business Development, Gareth Owen, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and Mayoress Joanna Nicholls-Parker, CEO of Tourism New Zealand, Kevin Bowler, and the New Zealand High Commissioner for Malaysia, David Kersey. They met with the owner of Air Asia X, Tony Fernandes, and his executive team to sign a deal that will bring a new airline to Christchurch with exceptionally low fares. Details of the deal will be released in the coming weeks.
“CIAL has been developing this opportunity over the past two years and is ecstatic that this service has now been approved,” said CIAL Chief Executive Jim Boult. “It’s the fruition of an amazing group effort and the impact of the fabulous experiences available in the South Island. The fact that we had such a strong team, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Christchurch and the head of Tourism New Zealand, showed Air Asia X how committed we are to this partnership.”
“This is fantastic news for Christchurch, in terms of travel and tourism,” said Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker. “We are looking at up to 70,000 more visitors a year, bringing in an estimated $70 - 80 million more to the region and creating hundreds of new jobs. Having this new airline truly positions Christchurch as New Zealand’s tourism hub.”
Azran Osman-Rani, Chief Executive of Air Asia X, said the choice of Christchurch as its first New Zealand port reflected its great destinational appeal. “Christchurch Airport put up a great business case for why we should come south,” he said. “We were impressed with the potential and the quality of tourism experiences available in the South Island.”
Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler who also attended the meeting is delighted at the news.” It’s fantastic news for New Zealand, and particularly the South Island. We are seeing fantastic demand from all parts of Asia and this decision from Air Asia X couldn’t come at a better time.”
Based in Malaysia, Air Asia X has been named as the world’s best long-haul low-cost carrier. With their parent company, Air Asia, they have a network of 130 routes covering 75 destinations.
Gareth Owen, CIAL General Manager Marketing and Business Development, said that at the beginning of the year three Air Asia X executives came to New Zealand to investigate the market here. “We took them on a whirlwind tour of the South Island that included classic experiences like white-water rafting, bungy jumping, climbing glaciers at Mt Cook, and riding on the Shotover Jet,” he said. “We were overwhelmed with support from regional tourism offices, tourism operators, local government and the whole CIAL team, ensuring every aspect of the visit went smoothly.”
David Mackenzie, Chairman of the Board of CIAL, believes the arrival of Air Asia X will be another leap forward for South Island tourism. “There is no doubt in my mind that the South Island of New Zealand is becoming a special destination in its own right. I think we will see more airlines such as Air Asia X bringing people in direct through the Christchurch International Airport gateway.”
Since being launched in 2007, Air Asia X has undergone rapid expansion, adding new routes each year.
The Air Asia X aircraft include some of the latest models from Airbus, including the A330-300 and A340 –300. Air Asia X has 10 Airbus aircraft with an order of 25.
“The additional Air Asia X flights also give Christchurch and South Island residents more travel opportunities to different parts of the world. We can expect many people to travel down from Auckland and Wellington to take advantage of these flights,” said Jim Boult. “It’s a win-win scenario. The team at Christchurch Airport is committed to this partnership with Air Asia X, and we look forward to a long and fruitful collaboration.”