China Southern Airlines is studying the feasibility of expanding its network in New Zealand, to include services to either Christchurch or Wellington.
The SkyTeam carrier says that following the success of its Guangzhou-Auckland services, which commenced last April, it is "researching into new services in New Zealand, specifically to Christchurch or Wellington".
This is the first time an Asian carrier has said it is considering flights to the New Zealand capital city, and comes only weeks after Wellington International Airport said it was examining extending its runway to open up long-haul services.
By comparison, Christchurch airport is already capable of handling widebody aircraft and has a daily service to Singapore operated by Singapore Airlines. AirAsia X suspended its Christchurch-Kuala Lumpur service in May last year.
China Southern also used the anniversary of its Auckland services to renew strategic marketing agreements with Tourism New Zealand and Auckland International Airport at a signing ceremony in Guangzhou that was attended by New Zealand prime minister John Key.
The airline says that it carried 122,000 passengers on the Guangzhou-Auckland route last year, and has averaged a load factor of 87% in January and February this year.
Innovata schedules show that China Southern is the only Chinese carrier that flies between China and New Zealand.