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There was an official welcome at international arrivals to mark the occasion, with dignitary speeches and performances.
As passengers came through the arrivals lounge after alighting the 12-hour non-stop flight, operated by China's largest airline, about 5.20pm, they were greeted with the fanfare of Maori performers, Ko Tane, and Chinese cultural group performances with two Chinese dragons.
The speakers included the Consulate General of Peoples Republic of China Madame He Ying, Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger, and chief executive of the airport Justin Watson.
"What an amazing welcome, I think we should do that for every flight now," said Watson, who himself had been on the flight.
"I'm quite excited to come here to welcome the return of China Southern Airlines to Christchurch," Madam Ying said.
She said she had been asked again and again when the flight would return, which showed how important it was to New Zealanders and Chinese.
Mauger referred to the date the flight was first introduced - in 2015.
"It's amazing to think how much things have changed all around the world in the almost eight years since then," he said.
The airline initially started flying three services a week to Christchurch direct from Guangzhou in 2015. It then increased to daily flights to meet the rising demand. China Southern Airlines was forced to suspend the Christchurch service in February 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit.
Tourism New Zealand figures show Chinese visitors ranked as New Zealand’s second-largest international tourism market in 2019 with 407,000 visitors.
On average, each visitor spent $476 a day in 2019 and about half stayed for more than a week.
Cathay Pacific flights also return to Christchurch next month, with direct routes to and from Hong Kong over summer.