New Zealand government hails first direct air link with Philippines

WELLINGTON, April 6 (Xinhua) -- The New Zealand government on Wednesday welcomed the announcement of the country's first direct air service to the Philippines.

Air New Zealand said its Auckland-Manila air service would run three times a week from December.

"New Zealand and the Philippines have a strong relationship with 40,000 Filipinos permanently residing here. This new Manila service is a reflection of the people-to-people and valuable trade and tourism links between our two countries," Transport Minister Simon Bridges said in a statement.

"Last year nearly 21,000 New Zealanders travelled to the Philippines and more than 19,000 Filipinos visited New Zealand so it's clear there's growing demand for this service."

Since 2012, the New Zealand government had negotiated more than 50 new or amended air agreements, bringing the total to 76.

Air New Zealand's new service was a direct result of an enhanced air services arrangement the government signed with the Philippines in 2014, he said.

Auckland Airport estimated the service, using a B767-300ER aircraft, would contribute 29 million NZ dollars (19.75 million U.S. dollars) in tourism spending to the New Zealand economy every year.

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