Why Did Air New Zealand Cut Its London Route?

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After 38 years, Air New Zealand will be ending its Los Angeles-London service this coming October. The news came a full year in advance, giving travelers a good amount of notice. The fifth-freedom service is just one half of a 25-hour-long journey between Auckland and London. So why is this service being cut?

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One of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that are offering free WiFi to all passengers. Photo: Bill Abbott via Flickr.

According to Business Traveller, Air New Zealand’s CEO says that “market dynamics have affected performance [of the routing via Los Angeles] in recent years.” He goes on to say:

“Today Kiwis have more than twice the number of ways to fly to London than a decade ago and preferences have changed. Less than seven percent of all airline travellers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year…At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the North American and European airlines we’re up against.” -Jeff McDowall, CEO, Air New Zealand

McDowall makes some excellent points. Whether it’s flying from Auckland to London or Los Angeles to London, Air New Zealand is up against some heavy competition.

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United Airlines is just one of many carriers that fly between Los Angeles and London. Photo: United Airlines

Increased competition, changing preferences

To get from Auckland to London, travelers can choose from a number of one-stop-service airlines including the following:

  • Emirates
  • Qatar Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • China Southern

Likewise, to get from Los Angeles to London, travelers also have a number of airlines to choose from in terms of non-stop service, including the following:

Heathrow airport sign with Airplane
London Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport. Photo: Getty Images

Another great point raised by the airline’s CEO is that many travelers flying between London and Auckland via Los Angeles were also required to obtain a US visa just for transiting. When there are so many other great airlines out there offering equally great inflight service without this added hassle, it’s hard to beat.

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Redirecting capacity

Another justification for ending this service is to direct capacity to faster-growing markets. As we saw how saturated the LAX-LHR market is, and Air New Zealand’s resources would be better focused elsewhere.

Furthermore, with slot allocations at Heathrow hard to come by, Air New Zealand was able to make a small profit from selling the allocation that it had. The firm that has purchased this slot is hoping to see long-term success with its new asset.

American and Delta Planes at LAX
The airline will continue its Auckland-Los Angeles service. Photo: Getty Images

Conclusion

McDowall acknowledges “the impact on Air New Zealand’s people who’ve worked hard to build the route and to achieve the highest customer satisfaction levels across the airline’s international network”.

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The closure of this route will see the disestablishment of its London cabin crew base of around 130 people. It may also mean the loss of around 25 roles at its Hammersmith sales office and ground team. This is subject to consultation.

Ultimately, the Los Angeles-London Heathrow service was too saturated with competition from other carriers. For New Zealanders wishing to get to London, there are a wide variety of other options that will take only slightly longer than Air New Zealand’s 25-hour service.

Have you flown Air New Zealand between Los Angeles and London before? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment.

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