Air New Zealand has today announced it will offer a direct service to Vietnam starting next year.
The airline says it will fly three times a week between Auckland and Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport on a seasonal basis, operating from June to October in 2016.
Flights will take around 11 hours, and operate on a Boeing 767-300.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon says Vietnam is a becoming an "increasingly popular leisure destination".
"[The] new service to Vietnam is significantly more convenient and quicker than current indirect options," he says. "It will also provide a direct link for Vietnamese travellers coming to New Zealand and we look forward to welcoming them."
While the Vietnam flights would start on a seasonal basis, the service could expand and eventually use a Boeing 787.
Chief strategy, networks and alliance officer Stephen Jones says pricing for the flights would be announced in the new year.
While he would not confirm which other markets Air New Zealand was interested in, he said the Philippines was a market of interest.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the Vietnam seasonal service was an "inspired first step" by Air New Zealand and he was confident it would extend to a year-round service. The Government was interested in pursuing a Pacific-Rim strategy for opening up new flight markets, which is in line with Air New Zealand's focus.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas says he expects the new route will be more skewed towards Kiwis travelling to Vietnam as a holiday destination, as opposed to tourists entering New Zealand.
It opened up Vietnam to compete with Thailand and Bali as a popular holiday spot for families and couples looking for a slightly different destination, he said.
The announcement coincides with Prime Minister John Key leading a trade delegation to Vietnam for a four-day visit starting tomorrow.
Mr Key will meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and other ministers, and attend a number of events focused on boosting two-way trade.
He said Air New Zealand's move would help build bilateral links between the two countries and bring more Vietnamese travellers down under.
More than 15,000 Kiwis travel to Vietnam and 3000 Vietnamese visit New Zealand each year.
The country is New Zealand's fastest-growing export market in South East Asia, with two-way trade worth over $1 billion a year. New Zealand is looking to double that by 2020.
Tickets for the new route will go on sale next year subject to clearance from the Government and the regulator.
Air New Zealand also begins Auckland-Houston and Auckland-Buenos Aires flights next month.
Today's announcement comes after Qantas revealed it’s partnered with American Airlines and will be directly competing with Air New Zealand by flying direct to Los Angeles.
Previously, Air New Zealand was the only airline in New Zealand to go directly to the US.
3 News / NZN