The non-stop service will operate weekly on Wednesdays utilising a new 146 seat Airbus A320 aircraft.

As well as providing a direct link to the Cook Islands for South Island passengers, the service delivers an additional connecting opportunity for travellers from Melbourne and Sydney.

"Since the introduction of Pacific Express we have been closely evaluating new route options as well as opportunities to increase capacity to meet demand," says
Air New Zealand Group General Manager Marketing, Network and Sales, Norm Thompson.

"One of the strong areas of growth has been in the number of South Islanders travelling to Rarotonga, stimulating the need for a direct service from Christchurch."

The five hour flight northbound will leave Christchurch on Wednesdays at 4pm, arriving into Rarotonga at 10pm the day before after crossing the international dateline. The return flight will depart at 12.30am, arriving back into Christchurch at 5am on Thursday morning after a five and a half hour flight.

Pacific Express fares for the new service will start at NZ$339 one-way (plus applicable levies and taxes), the same as existing fares currently available for Christchurch passengers flying via Auckland.

"The new service means more good news for Cook Islands tourism, following on from our announcement in May that we were increasing services between Rarotonga and Auckland during the peak holiday periods this year," said Mr Thompson.

The Christchurch to Rarotonga service is scheduled to provide good connections in both directions with Australian flights, as well as with domestic services throughout the South Island.

NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.

For more information about Air New Zealand visit www.airnewzealand.com and for more information about Star Alliance visit www.staralliance.com.