Hello Air New Zealand – Australia’s New No 1 International Airline

Air New Zealand is emerging as the dominant player in Australia’s international aviation market. In May 2021, the Auckland-based airline had a 49% share of that market, more than double its nearest rival, Qantas. Air New Zealand benefited from the opening of a two-way travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia in April and its longstanding trans-Tasman network depth

Air New Zealand owned Australia’s international aviation market in May. Photo: Getty Images

Australia’s Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) released May 2021 international passenger and airline statistics on Wednesday. 214,246 passengers moved through Australia’s international airports in May 2021. 104,980 (or 49%) of those 214,246 passengers flew on Air New Zealand flights.

By way of comparison, 3,208,000 passengers moved through the same Australian airports in May 2019. In May 2020, just 52 989 passengers flew in and out of Australia. The recent uptick in passenger traffic is primarily due to a travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand opening in mid-April.

The two key beneficiaries of that travel corridor were Air New Zealand and Qantas. The Australian airline had a 22.6% share of the international aviation market in May. In third place was Jetstar, Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary airline. Jetstar had a 6.7% market share in May.

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787 jet lands in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand reaps the benefits of commitment and network depth

Air New Zealand’s domination of the trans-Tasman market and its current status as Australia’s number one international airline is largely due to its extensive trans-Tasman network and ongoing commitment to it.

In contrast, Qantas and Jetstar axed virtually all of its trans-Tasman (and wider international) flying in March 2020. Qantas began restoring some trans-Tasman flights late in 2020 in response to a one-way travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia. Qantas ramped up its flights and Jetstar joined the fray in April when the two-way travel corridor commenced.

Like the All Blacks running amuck in a Bledisloe Cup, Air New Zealand’s run of good fortune in Australia is likely to continue through to the still-to-be released June Australian international traffic figures. But by mid-June, the New Zealand – Australia travel corridor began to wobble. By mid-July, it is largely in tatters.

While Kiwis can still fly into Australia and skip the 14-day quarantine, New Zealand has paused quarantine-free flights from three Australian states, including New South Wales and Victoria, home to Australia’s two biggest cities.

Qantas was the runner-up airline to Air New Zealand in May. Photo: Getty Images

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Can Air New Zealand hang on to the crown?

Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Jetstar have wound back trans-Tasman flights as a result. Even so, Air New Zealand’s network depth in Australia continues to give it an edge. For example, Air New Zealand flies between its Auckland (AKL) home port and the Australian state capitals of Adelaide (ADL), Hobart (BHA), and Perth (PER). New Zealand is currently allowing in travelers from these three cities without quarantining.

None of these cities are huge Air New Zealand markets but they are handy markets and neither Qantas or Jetstar fly these routes. The only quarantine-free market all three airlines are currently flying on is between Queensland and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines (5.7%) and Qatar Airways (3.9%) round out the five airlines dominating Australia’s international aviation market in May. Twelve months ago, Qatar Airways was the King of Australia’s international skies. But as Qatar Airways can now attest, the crown comes and the crown goes. The question is, how long can Air New Zealand hang onto the prize?

Simple Flying has approached Air New Zealand for their response to the latest BITRE statistics.