Air NZ's first Buenos Aires flight touches down

The first Air New Zealand flight to Buenos Aires touches down (Air New Zealand/Twitter)
The first Air New Zealand flight to Buenos Aires touches down (Air New Zealand/Twitter)

Air New Zealand has flown to South America for the first time, touching down in Buenos Aires this morning.

And it's hoping to take not only Kiwis there, but Aussies too.

A haka was performed and stopped travellers in their tracks.

"Very, very moving welcome to have Te Kapa haka group here," says Air New Zealand strategy chief Stephen Jones.

Argentines, known for their love of the tango, were lapping up Air New Zealand's first foray into Buenos Aires and mobbing ambassador Richie McCaw.

Three-hundred boarded the inaugural flight out of Auckland. The South American market is serious business for Air New Zealand.

The airline has invested $100M upgrading its 777-200s to be flown to Buenos Aires, stripping out the old cabin and refitting it with the latest interiors and technology.

"I think it is quite an exciting proposition, [and] really exciting day for Air New Zealand as we start to map out a whole continent we previously haven't visited before," says Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon.

Buenos Aires is the most visited city in Latin America. Nicknamed the Paris of the South, it's also the perfect stop-off point for other popular attractions, like the Iguazu Falls.

"You can see everything we have in New Zealand on a mega scale and more," says New Zealand ambassador to Argentina Hayden Montgomery.

Tourism New Zealand is predicting 30,000 South America visitors will come and spend their money in New Zealand.

"Our tourism strategy is not just about numbers; it's about value, so people who stay longer and spend, so people from a long-haul flight tend to do that," says New Zealand Tourism Board chair Kerry Prendergast.

For the three flights a week to be a success, Air New Zealand is targeting not only Kiwi travellers, but Aussies as well.

Air New Zealand has timed its move into South America pretty well. There's the Super 18 rugby kicking off in February, the Rio Olympics in August, and the world's leaders, including John Key, will be at APEC in Peru in November.

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