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10 Dec 2023

America now only one flight from Christchurch

A United Airlines Dreamliner 787-900 will land at Christchurch Airport direct from San Francisco for the first time on Sunday morning, then the airline will fly a 787-800 between the two cities three times a week for the summer.

The new service, in partnership with Air New Zealand, will be the first time the South Island has had a direct scheduled service to San Francisco – and the first time an American airline has flown direct between the South Island and the United States.

Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Justin Watson says the new non-stop service will get South Islanders to the US on one flight and bring Americans directly into the South Island, which is what attracts them to New Zealand. Using its partnership with Air New Zealand, United can access all the domestic network via Christchurch Airport’s single terminal transfer.

In addition, United’s flights will provide much needed additional air freight capacity for South Island exporters to get their precious cargo out quickly and onto the shelves in offshore markets. 

“Statistics show American visitors who enter the country through Christchurch Airport spend 42% more in New Zealand and stay 33% longer,” Justin says.

"Based on government data, the seasonal service is forecast to bring in $44 million in visitor spend for New Zealand, with $32 million of that going to the regions of the South Island.  

“This is the ideal combination of national value impact and regional economic impact, and will boost tourism value for the country. “

He says the direct service will also be an important connection between Christchurch, America and Antarctica.

“The United States Antarctic Programme is based here because we are the world’s southern-most gateway to the ice. Every year the programme brings more than 3000 staff, scientists and supplies here from America on the way to Antarctica. Having this direct air connection will be invaluable and easier for that process.”

The airline’s expansion into New Zealand is highlighted by United Airlines Regional Sales Manager for Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti, Tim Wallis.

“At United, we are excited to strengthen our presence in New Zealand with the inaugural flight UA730, the first non-stop service from San Francisco to Christchurch. New Zealand will always be a bucket list destination for our U.S. travellers, and this flight offers direct access to the natural wonders of the South Island, while also making it easy for New Zealand’s southern population to head north into the Americas and beyond.

“We are proud to be the first U.S. airline to offer this direct service for travellers into Christchurch from the U.S., and vice versa. We look forward to continuing to nurture our close ties in New Zealand and offering travellers more choice, thanks to our great partnership with Air New Zealand.

“We have enjoyed working closely with Christchurch Airport on the launch of this route. It’s fantastic to have the community support in welcoming the aircraft’s touchdown on Sunday. It is certainly a special moment for United and all parties involved.”

Christchurch Airport is opening up a special place alongside the runway from 9am to 3pm on Sunday.

Dubbed ”Planespotters’ Park”, the area will open just that day for aviation fans to see the Dreamliner arrive and depart, giving people every opportunity to see the aircraft land and taxi to its gate in the morning, then depart in the afternoon.