Explained: Why Air New Zealand continues to fly to China

A tourism expert says the reason Air New Zealand is still flying to China while other major airlines continue to suspend their services is purely down to demand.

Airlines such as British Airways, United, Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific have stopped operating their services to China, however Air NZ continues to fly to Shanghai. 

AUT tourism professor Simon Milne says commercial factors are the main reason for the cancellations.

"I think what you need to realise, airlines like United who have cancelled or reduced flights are saying they are doing that because the traffic isn't there. People aren't wanting to fly," he told The AM Show. 

Milne believes Air NZ's response is the right one.

"They've been evaluating the situation and their chief medical officer is giving some reassuring points about why they continue to fly."

Milne says its important to remember the death rates are sitting at about one to two percent.

"There's a relatively new virus here, that we don't quite fully understand in terms of transmission or death rates," Milne says. 

Thirty-four airlines have cancelled or reduced flights services to China, where the deadly virus originated in Wuhan.

While the demand for flights to and from China is still at a level high enough for airlines to continue to operate, it's inevitable that New Zealand's $40 billion tourism sector will take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

"Tourism is one of our major markets. There's no doubt there will be an impact on the tourism sector here and there's no doubt that there will be a reduction of travellers to China," Milne says.    

On Thursday, Sichuan Airlines became the first operator of flights to China from New Zealand to reduce services.