AUCKLAND -- The direct flights between Beijing and Auckland in New Zealand officially resumed on Tuesday as an Air China aircraft carrying over 200 Chinese tourists landed at the Auckland International Airport.
The services had been suspended for more than three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
The Chinese tourists were welcome by a special ceremony featured with traditional Maori dance and singing at the airport on Tuesday afternoon.
The restart of Beijing-Auckland flights was a "big happy event" for both countries, said Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Xiaolong, who was present at the ceremony, adding that New Zealand was one of the top destinations for Chinese students and tourists before the pandemic.
The resumption of flights has provided more convenience for the exchange of people and goods between the two countries and will inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations, he said.
"It inspires me tremendously that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our cooperation remains robust and dynamic. China is by far New Zealand's biggest trading partner and our bilateral trade hit a record high of 40 billion New Zealand dollars ($248 billion) in 2022," he said.
Scott Tasker, Chief Customer Officer of Auckland International Airport, said that the people-to-people connection is an important part of China-New Zealand relations, and the resumption of air routes will strengthen the connection between the two countries.
Currently, direct flights are conducted between Beijing and Auckland four times every week, according to Air China.
Xue Jun, general manager of Air China's Asia-Pacific headquarters, said that "I believe that with the continued support of our travel partners, passenger traffic between New Zealand and China will rebound and the air transportation bridge between our two countries will be even stronger."
Liu Yang, chairman of a travel agency in Beijing who was on board the Air China flight, said that the resumption of flights is very convenient for tourists in China, and many of his customers are looking forward to visiting New Zealand.
Dave Smith, a tourism practitioner in Auckland, also welcomed the resumption of direct flights between China's capital and Auckland.
The move will facilitate personnel exchanges, bring more tourists, and promote the recovery of New Zealand's tourism industry and economy, he said.