Air New Zealand has revealed plans to scrap its iconic fifth freedom route between Los Angeles and London. The axing of the route is earmarked for October 2020, at which point the airline will begin a new direct service between Auckland and New York. As many as 150 jobs could be at risk as a result.
For any avgeek, Air New Zealand’s transatlantic trip has been one of the world’s greatest fifth freedom routes for more than three decades. There was something really special about crossing the Atlantic on an airline from the other side of the world, but it looks like the dream is coming to an end.
According to a press release published today, ANZ is to axe its London flights after 36 years of operating the route. The airline has noted that the route will continue as scheduled until October 2020, but that no tickets will be sold beyond that.
The decision to withdraw from the route so far in advance is, they say, to avoid any impact to customers, as well as to give them time to support those workers who will be affected.
London base to close
Due to the cessation of the route, Air New Zealand will no longer require a base in London. The cabin crew base closure will see the loss of around 130 jobs. In addition to this, an estimated 25 roles in ANZ’s Hammersmith based sales office and ground team will also be lost.
Air New Zealand’s acting chief executive Jeff McDowall said in the release that ANZ would be doing everything it can to support those displaced workers.
“We will be working with our people and their union to help with the next steps in their career, including looking at opportunities in other areas of the airline.”
McDowall says that the decision to axe the iconic route has come about due to increasing pressure on the transatlantic leg of the route. He admitted that the route had been an important link between New Zealand and Europe since it launched in 1982, but that things have changed a lot since then. He commented,
“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.”
Adding New York
All is not lost, as the airline is planning to use the capacity freed up by dropping London to launch direct services to New York from Auckland. Flying a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the airline will begin service to Newark Liberty in October 2020, offering an easy connection to partner airline United at its hub.
According to the release, New York has been an aspirational destination for the airline for some time. McDowall said,
“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service to Chicago is exceeding expectations. New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to make this milestone a reality.”
The New York flights will go on sale soon, subject to approval by regulators and confirmation of landing slots.
Will you miss ANZ’s fifth freedom transatlantic service? Have you flown it before? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!