Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777s Won’t Be Back For At Least A Year

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Air New Zealand won’t fly its fleet of Boeing 777s until at least September 2021. The airline yesterday announced that the decision had been made due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air New Zealand, Boeing 777, Storage
The COVID-19 pandemic means that Air New Zealand’s 777s won’t fly passengers for at least a year. Photo: Getty Images

The coronavirus crisis has sent shockwaves through the aviation industry. Many airlines have felt the impact of the downturn in travel demand, both large and small. Carriers have had to adapt operations as a result of the situation. Some have cut their schedules, while others have had to lay off pilots and cabin crew. Meanwhile, some, like British Airways, have even taken to cutting their fleets.

A fleet of 15

According to Planespotters.net, Air New Zealand currently has a fleet of 15 Boeing 777 aircraft. This is divided between eight 777-200s and a further seven 777-300s. However, these aircraft will be taking an extended vacation from flying, according to the airline.

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Air New Zealand yesterday announced that its fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft wouldn’t fly until at least September 2021. This means no passenger flights for a year. Depending on how the situation pans out, it is possible that the grounding could even be extended for longer. The 777s won’t be returned to service unless needed, and IATA currently estimates a full demand recovery could take until 2024.

Air New Zealand, Boeing 777, Storage
The aircraft could return from September 2021 at the earliest. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Commenting on the grounding, Air New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer, Carrie Hurihanganui said,

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“The recent resurgence of cases in New Zealand is a reminder that this is a highly volatile situation. We are not anticipating a return to any 777 flying until September 2021 at the earliest, which is why we have made the decision to ground the fleet until at least this time next year.”

What will happen to the aircraft?

It seems as though Air New Zealand has taken inspiration from its neighbor Qantas when deciding what to do with its fleet of grounded 777s. Some will quite possibly share the tarmac with Qantas’ Airbus A380s.

Air New Zealand said that four of its 777-300 fleet would be sent to the Victorville storage facility in the Californian desert. This is where many aircraft, including Qantas’ Airbus A380s and the Southwest Boeing 737 MAX fleet, are in storage. The remaining three 777-300 aircraft will remain stored in Auckland so that Air New Zealand has quick access to them if needed.

Boeing 737 MAX, Southwest Airlines, Grounding
Southwest’s Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft are currently parked at Victorville. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, the entire Boeing 777-200 fleet will be going on a vacation. These aircraft will be split between California’s Victorville and Roswell in New Mexico. They are due to fly across the Pacific Ocean before October.

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Commenting on the choice of location, the airline remarked,

“The North American locations were chosen for their arid conditions and existing storage facilities which will ensure aircraft are kept in a condition that will enable them to be returned to service within six to eight weeks if required.”

What do you make of Air New Zealand’s announcement? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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