Air New Zealand Suspends London Flights: Has The End Come Early?

Air New Zealand’s striking black livery catches eyes at select airports around the world. But it looks like the end is nigh for Air New Zealand at London Heathrow. The airline had already called it a day on its fifth freedom flight between Los Angeles and Heathrow. But the downturn in travel means Air New Zealand is suspending the route, with the last flight leaving Auckland on Friday, 20 March.

This weekend will be the last time the striking black livery of Air New Zealand is seen at Heathrow. Photo: Getty

The service was originally set for closure in October

The suspension is slated to run through until 30 June. But the airline had already announced the closure of the Los Angeles – London leg of the Auckland – Los  Angeles – London odyssey. Late last year the airline said the flight would terminate in Los Angeles from October 2020. At the time, a spokesperson for the airline said that less than 7% of travelers between Auckland and London choose to travel via Los Angeles.

Regarding the Los Angeles – London leg, the spokesperson said;

“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.”

The Auckland – Los Angeles – London service has recently been operated by a Boeing 777. Photo: Rob Hodgkins via Flickr.

The odds are this weekend will be the last time Air New Zealand touches down in London for quite some time. NZ002 will head off from Auckland late on Friday evening, touching down at Heathrow mid-morning on Saturday. Mid-afternoon, NZ001 will push back from London for the last time before its “suspension”, and fly west towards Los Angeles and onwards to Auckland.

Air New Zealand is unlikely to reinstate the flight at the end of June.

Suspension the end of an era

It is the end of an era. Air New Zealand began flying to London via Los Angeles in 1981 using its first Boeing 747. The departure of Air New Zealand from London is loaded with symbolism, as New Zealand is still a member of the Commonwealth and Elizabeth II remains New Zealand’s Head of State. British Airways once flew to both Auckland and Christchurch but hasn’t been seen in New Zealand since 1995. Now Air New Zealand is leaving London. You might take this as a comment on the relevance of the Commonwealth these days.

Not so long ago, Air New Zealand also flew to London via Hong Kong. It was the last airline to truly circumnavigate the globe. Until 2013, you could fly Auckland – Los Angeles – London – Hong Kong – Auckland on Air New Zealand metal. In 2013, having done a deal with codeshare partner Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand ended its Hong Kong – London service.

Air New Zealand used its first Boeing 747 on its initial services between Los Angeles and London. Photo: Andy Mitchell via Flickr.

They were heady days and very different from now. Earlier this week, Air New Zealand moved to cut its international capacity by 85%. Air New Zealand’s CEO said, “these are unprecedented times that we are all having to navigate.”

Yesterday, Air New Zealand suspended all services on 13 trans-Tasman routes, leaving a barebones service on five other key trans-Tasman routes.

The immediate outlook is not good and recovery is going to take some time. This makes the chances of the Los Angeles – London legs of NZ001/002 temporarily reappearing highly unlikely. For many reasons, that’s a shame.