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US airline's first direct service to South Island lands in Christchurch

Dec 10, 2023

A United Airlines plane has landed at Christchurch Airport, direct from San Francisco for the first time, on Sunday morning. Photo: Supplied / United Airlines

The US is now only one flight away from the South Island.

A United Airlines Dreamliner 787-900 landed at Christchurch Airport direct from San Francisco just after 10am today.

It's the first time an American airline has flown non-stop between the South Island and the United States.

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. The airline will fly a 787-800 between the two cities three times a week for the summer.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Justin Watson said a new airline service between Ōtautahi and San Francisco is a confidence boost for the entire country.

He said the aviation sector has taken a while to scale back up after Covid, and to be one of United Airline's new routes should mean a lot to Christchurch, the South Island and New Zealand.

"Statistics show American visitors who enter the country through Christchurch Airport spend 42 percent more in New Zealand and stay 33 percent longer," Watson said.

"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 said 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."

United Airlines spokespeson Tim Wallis said his company is proud to be the first US airline to offer the direct service for travellers.

"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."

For the keen plane-spotters, Christchurch Airport has set up a viewing area alongside the runway dubbed Planespotter's Park. It's open until 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Watson said it should be a good day out for everyone.

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