Singapore Airlines celebrates 35 years of flying to and from Christchurch

The first flight was operated using a Boeing 747-200.
The first flight was operated using a Boeing 747-200. Photo credit: Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is one of New Zealand's longest serving airlines, and it's not just Auckland where it's maintained its link with Aotearoa.

Friday marks 35 years of Singapore Airlines flying in and out of Christchurch.

On October 8 1986, a Boeing 747-200 touched down at Christchurch International Airport, a very modern aircraft for its time.

Not only was Singapore Airlines flight SQ388 the airline's first flight into Christchurch, it was the first from any international long-haul carrier.

Initially operating as a weekly service that returned to Singapore via Auckland, Singapore Airlines had grown its services to a daily flight operating Singapore-Christchurch return, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The daily operations, which grew to 10 times a week in peak season, meant not only the people but the products of the Canterbury region were just hours away from anywhere on Singapore Airlines pre-pandemic global network of 135 destinations in 37 countries.

Singapore Airlines General Manager New Zealand, Mr Kenny Teo, says he's disappointed COVID-19 has meant the celebration has to be low-key.

"To have been a consistent part of the South Islands' history for 35 years is something we are incredibly proud of," Teo said.

Boeing 747-200 as flown to New Zealand in 1986.
Boeing 747-200 as flown to New Zealand in 1986. Photo credit: Creative Commons

"Over this time Singapore Airlines has had an unwavering commitment to Christchurch, through the good times and the challenging, ensuring we continued to keep the South Island connected to the world, a commitment that remains as strong as ever.

"It is bitterly disappointing that such a milestone, the successes we've achieved and the challenges we have overcome collectively, cannot be celebrated and acknowledged with the people of Christchurch and the wider Canterbury region," Teo said

Teo said the long-term commitment to Christchurch has been made possible by having such a positive relationship with the city's airport. 

"The strength of our 35-year relationship sets a solid foundation for success over the next 35 years and has been made possible thanks to outstanding support we have received from the local community, the travel trade and key partners such as Christchurch Airport.

"We've seen many changes in the aviation industry over this time from aircraft, to the latest inflight entertainment technology, and we believe far greater innovation will come as we look into the future.

Airbus' A350 as used by the airline today.
Airbus' A350 as used by the airline today. Photo credit: Airbus

"We look forward to supporting New Zealand with its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing to connect Christchurch with the world."

Earlier this year, Singapore Airlines' marked 45 years of service to Auckland in May.

A timeline of Singapore Airlines in Christchurch:

  • 1977: Singapore Airlines opens its Christchurch sales office
  • 1986: First flight to Christchurch, weekly service (Boeing 747-200, SQ388)\
  • 1999: Flights increase to five times a week (Airbus A340)
  • 2002: Introduces Boeing 777-200ER with Space Beds in Raffles Class
  • 2004: Daily service to Christchurch launches
  • 2014: New generation Economy and Business Class on refitted Boeing 777-200ER launches
  • 2019: Singapore Airlines deploys its long-haul A350-900 featuring the Airlines' Next Generation lie-flat Business Class and Economy Class cabins as well as introducing Premium Economy on the route for the first time.