United Airlines inaugurates new San Francisco-Christchurch service

A United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner lifts off.
Photo Credit: United Airlines

In a key moment for New Zealand South Island residents and American travelers alike, a United Airlines Dreamliner Boeing 787-900 touched down at Christchurch Airport (CHC) over the weekend.

The inaugural flight, which was flown by a Dreamliner with special ‘Kiwi Cruiser’ markings, flags the commencement of a new non-stop service from San Francisco. This new venture, a collaboration with Air New Zealand, heralds economic opportunities and strategic connections.

Gateway to the South Island

Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Justin Watson expressed his enthusiasm for the direct service, emphasizing its significance in connecting South Islanders directly to the United States.

The allure of the picturesque South Island, a captivating destination, is now within reach for American travelers, fostering a unique and direct connection that transcends typical flight routes.

Through the partnership with Air New Zealand, United Airlines taps into a streamlined domestic network accessible via Christchurch Airport’s efficient single-terminal transfer.

This collaborative effort aims to enhance the travel experience for passengers, ensuring a seamless journey from touchdown to takeoff.


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Boosting Regional Commerce

Beyond passenger travel, the introduction of United’s flights brings a boon to South Island exporters. The increased air freight capacity facilitates the swift transport of goods to offshore markets, bolstering regional economies.

The significance of this service extends beyond tourism, becoming a catalyst for economic growth and global trade.

“Statistics show American visitors who enter the country through Christchurch Airport spend 42% more in New Zealand and stay 33% longer,” notes Justin Watson.

This substantial economic impact reinforces the value of the direct service, not only for the airline but for the entire New Zealand economy.

Economic Windfall

The economic projections for this seasonal service are nothing short of impressive. Based on government data, the direct flights are forecasted to inject $44 million in visitor spend into New Zealand.

Notably, $32 million of this economic windfall is earmarked for the regions of the South Island, providing a substantial boost to local businesses and communities.

“This is the ideal combination of national value impact and regional economic impact, and will boost tourism value for the country,” Justin asserts.

The strategic placement of the direct service from San Francisco ensures a balance between national and regional benefits, creating a ripple effect of positive economic outcomes.

Christchurch and Antarctica

The significance of the direct flight expands beyond tourism and trade. Christchurch serves as a vital link between the United States, the South Island, and Antarctica.

The United States Antarctic Programme, with its base in Christchurch, relies on the city’s southern gateway to facilitate the annual transportation of staff, scientists, and supplies to Antarctica. The direct air connection streamlines this crucial process, enhancing the efficiency and ease of logistical operations.

Tim Wallis, United Airlines Regional Sales Manager for Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti, underscores the importance of this connection.

“We are proud to be the first U.S. airline to offer this direct service for travelers into Christchurch from the U.S., and vice versa,” he states.

The strategic collaboration with Air New Zealand ensures that this new route caters to the preferences of both American and New Zealand travelers, opening up a world of possibilities.

Planespotters’ Park

To commemorate this milestone, Christchurch Airport opened the “Planespotters’ Park,” a dedicated space near the runway to allow aviation enthusiasts to witness the Dreamliner’s arrival from San Francisco and the subsequent departure.

The event, which was scheduled from 9 am to 3 pm on Sunday, offered a unique opportunity for the community to engage with the aviation spectacle, further strengthening the bond between the airline and aviation buffs.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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