Air New Zealand plans to cut its twice-weekly direct flights between Auckland and Beijing to concentrate on the Shanghai route.
The airline will add a fifth weekly service to the commercial hub of Shanghai in moves it calls an “expansion” of services to China.
“Following a review of current services into China, Air New Zealand has determined that this expansion will best be achieved by consolidating services into Shanghai and serving Beijing as a one-stop destination in conjunction with Star Alliance code-share partner Air China,” the airline said.
It will add a fifth weekly service to Shanghai from July 4 but will suspend its twice-weekly direct Auckland to Beijing service from June 30.
Travel between New Zealand and China has ramped up in recent years, with the number of short-term Chinese visitors climbing by about 49,000 to an annual 152,000 in the year ended February 29 from 2010. The number of Kiwis travelling rose almost 12,000 to 69,000 over the same period.
Air NZ is aiming for a $110 million profit improvement from its long-haul services by 2015, which are now an underperforming part of the company.
The airline’s first-half profit sank 61 per cent to $38 million on higher fuel costs and fewer international passengers.
International airline group general manager Christopher Luxon said the airline still considers Beijing “an important and growing market” and its Air China code-share arrangement provided convenient connections between Shanghai and Beijing in both directions.
“Air New Zealand has been operating to mainland China for more than five years and is highly committed to the potential of the market long term,” Mr Luxon said.