China Eastern Airlines launches Auckland to Hangzhou, Sydney services

China Eastern Airlines launches Auckland to Hangzhou, Sydney services.
Flight MU731 landed in Auckland just after 9am on Monday, November 6. Photo credit: China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines' first direct flight from Hangzhou touched down in Auckland on Monday, marking the return of a direct route between the two cities for the first time since 2019. 

The airline will operate direct services on the route as well as flights with stopovers in Sydney, meaning more competition on the popular trans-Tasman route.

It comes in the same week as Air Asia X announced it will axe its Auckland-Sydney services in late January in favour of resuming direct flights between Auckland and the Gold Coast.

China Eastern Airlines will operate four services per week on Airbus A330 aircraft: two direct from Hangzhou to Auckland with a return via Sydney; and two direct from Hangzhou to Sydney with a stopover in Auckland on the return.

"The new route provides travellers with more options for getting to and from Auckland, making it easier for people in China to visit New Zealand and vice versa," Jim Young, China Eastern Airlines general manager, told Newshub.

The airline is boasting competitive pricing on its new services, with one-way economy airfares starting at $244 for flights between Auckland and Sydney or $583 for flights between Auckland and Hangzhou.

Business class customers are offered free Wi-Fi while passengers in all cabins get checked-in luggage, in-flight entertainment and meals at no additional cost, in contrast to some budget airlines.

China Eastern Airlines believes the new services will have a positive impact on tourism in both directions.

"Hangzhou is the capital city of Zhejiang Province and is approximately 170km from Shanghai," said Young.

"The city is known for its tea culture, silk production, beautiful landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is also home to some of China's largest e-commerce companies. The city offers a mix of traditional and modern experiences, making it a 'must-visit' city in China.

"The Hangzhou-Auckland route also creates more convenient travel options for passengers from China to reach New Zealand, which is widely recognised for its breathtaking and diverse landscapes, often considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. New Zealand's natural beauty is a major drawcard for Chinese tourists."

Also restarting this week is China Southern Airlines flights between Christchurch and Guangzhou. The route, which was started in 2015 but paused amid the COVID-19 pandemic, relaunches on Friday.

Last week, rival US airlines United and Delta both launched Auckland-Los Angeles direct services, as the skies above Aotearoa get increasingly busy over the peak Christmas season.