United becomes first U.S. airline to land in Christchurch, now offering direct flights
Christchurch, December 10, 2023 – Today, United Airlines becomes the first U.S. carrier to fly into New Zealand’s South Island with the arrival of the inaugural flight UA730 from San Francisco (SFO) to Christchurch (CHC).
United is now the only airline to offer direct flights between the South Island and the U.S. and the first to offer direct CHC – SFO service. The new direct route will fly three times a week on board a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
By the end of 2023, United will operate 66 flights between the U.S. and the South Pacific region each week. With nearly 50% growth over the past year, it is the largest expansion to the region in U.S. aviation history.
The inaugural aircraft has been christened with the name ‘Kiwi Cruiser’, adorned with a special New Zealand silver fern, signifying a defining moment in aviation history, and the strengthening of United Airlines’ relationship with New Zealand for years to come.
“This is a route I’ve personally wanted to add to United’s network for a long time – I had the opportunity to backpack in New Zealand earlier in my life and it’s such a special destination that offers travellers an experience unlike anywhere else in the world,” said Patrick Quayle, United’s Senior Vice President of Global Network Planning and Alliances. “And because of United’s partnership with Air New Zealand, customers can easily connect from Christchurch to 19 other destinations across New Zealand.”
The new non-stop flight strengthens the ongoing alliance between United Airlines and Air New Zealand. Thanks to the partnership, travellers can enjoy easy connections to 35 destinations across New Zealand and the South Pacific and more than 150 destinations within the United States.
Air New Zealand Chief Transformation and Alliances Officer Mike Williams says the new direct Christchurch to San Francisco service is an expansion of the already strong alliance partnership between the airlines.
“This new route is great news for customers, who now have even more connection options between New Zealand and the US. What’s more, our alliance with United Airlines means customers can book to travel on the new service on an Air New Zealand booking and receive the same loyalty benefits as they would travelling with Air New Zealand – and vice versa for United Airlines customers. With fantastic onboard experiences available across the airlines, we’re thrilled to welcome United into another region here in Aotearoa (New Zealand).”
The configuration of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner offers 28 Polaris business class, 21 Premium Plus, 36 Economy Plus and 158 Economy seats on every flight. Every seat in United Polaris converts into a 198cm long completely lie-flat bed to provide one of the best sleeps in the sky. With high-tech Wi-Fi available onboard and an on-demand entertainment system, passengers can enjoy the latest feature films and television programs with intuitive and easy-to-use controls.
Christchurch Airport Chief Executive Justin Watson says “We’re so excited to welcome United’s direct service between Christchurch and San Francisco for the summer and know the service will “supercharge” tourism in the region. The American travel market is buoyant, with Americans travelling widely again and we know they want to experience what the South Island offers. In addition, the service brings much needed air freight capacity for South Island producers and enables South Islanders direct access to the US and beyond.”
The inaugural flight will be serviced by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and will be welcomed with a traditional water cannon upon arrival to commemorate the occasion. Christchurch Airport has opened Planespotters’ Park specially for the inaugural flight, from 9 am to 3 pm for planespotters to watch the aircraft’s landing and departure.