Boeing’s 787-9 launch customer, Air New Zealand, has reached an agreement with the manufacturer to push back the initial delivery date of its most recent Dreamliner order to 2024. With long-haul passenger figures hovering at just 5% of pre-COVID levels and New Zealand’s international borders remaining essentially shut for the foreseeable future, it is not difficult to see why.
Initially intended for 2023
In a trading update on June 18th, Air New Zealand said it had recently renegotiated the date for the delivery of the first of eight new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The airline placed the order for seven of the larger 787-10s and one 787-9 in September 2019, six months before COVID hit.
The first of the aircraft was supposed to join the fleet in 2023. However, Air New Zealand said today that as a result of its ‘strong, longstanding relationship with the manufacturer’, a new date had been set for the financial year of 2024. The Kiwi flag carrier already operates a fleet of 14 Boeing 787-9. It was the global launch customer for the type, taking delivery of the first in July 2014.
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Long-haul supported by government scheme
It comes as no surprise that airlines are none too keen on bringing home new widebody aircraft at the moment. Air New Zealand’s long-haul passenger numbers sit at a minuscule 5% of pre-COVID numbers. With the country’s international borders effectively closed and without a roadmap for when they could potentially reopen, this is not something that is likely to change any time soon.
However, long-haul destinations are still supported by airfreight demand. As for many other carriers, the airline’s cargo business continues to contribute significantly to overall revenue. Combined with the New Zealand government’s Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme, Air New Zealand is operating an average of 30 international flights per week until the end of October this year.
Domestic and bubble demand bright spots
Domestic and short-haul demand is showing positive momentum, the airline said. Meanwhile, it also cautioned that the pendulum could swing quickly in the other direction if there were further restrictions or lockdowns.
“There has been much to celebrate in recent months, with the opening of travel bubbles on the Trans-Tasman and to the Cook Islands, and the continued strong demand across our Domestic network,” Greg Foran, Air New Zealand CEO, said in a statement.
“The airline has its eyes firmly set on the future as we move out of the survive phase and into revival mode. (…) It means maintaining the hard-won structural cost reductions made across our business from the outset of this pandemic and ensuring continued cost vigilance,” Mr Foran continued.
When is your best guess for when New Zealand will reopen its borders? Have you traveled in or out of the country during the past year? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience.