Air New Zealand is eyeing a reboot of its proposed New York flights in 2022. The nonstop flights between Auckland and New York were flagged in 2019, but COVID-19 put the brakes on the flights to the US east coast. Now, the route is back on Air New Zealand’s radar.
2022 lining up as likely start date for Air New Zealand’s New York flights
A report in New Zealand’s NewsHub quotes Air New Zealand CEO saying the New York route is shaping up as a viable prospect next year.
“Work is well underway around the airline planning for our inaugural flight to New York, with a team working to get this route up and running next year,” said Mr Foran.
“Customers can expect us to be back in business to our key markets like the USA, Japan, China, and obviously Australia and the Pacific Islands.”
Greg Foran’s comments follow New Zealand’s decision to drop its COVID zero strategy and announcing tentative plans to reopen borders to vaccinated travelers early next year.
It’s not a moment too soon for the Auckland-based airline, which has maintained scaled back schedules to key international destinations but has seen its long-haul passenger numbers drop to just a few thousand passengers per month.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
London’s loss is New York’s gain
Air New Zealand made a big splash two years ago, confirming the start of flights between Auckland and New York in October 2020. New York continued Air New Zealand’s gradual conquest of North America – the airline also flying in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Chicago, and Houston.
The New York flights would also be the first nonstop services between North America’s number one city and the southwest Pacific. At 15 and a half hours flying east and 17 and a half hours flying west, the route is one of the longest in the world.
Air New Zealand’s imminent arrival in New York coincided with the airline’s planned departure from London, a shock move that marked the end of Air New Zealand’s footprint around Europe and its pivot to North America.
The New York flights would even swipe the London flight numbers. Instead of Heathrow, NZ1 would start flying to Newark, and NZ2 would operate the return flight.
What Air New Zealand hadn’t factored in was COVID-19. Before the New York flights even commenced, Air New Zealand was forced to hit the pause button.
North America is an important market for New Zealand
Now the flights are back on the radar. While Kiwis aren’t shy about flying to the US, New Zealand’s relatively low population means New Zealand traveler numbers will never bust into the top ten lists there.
But in New Zealand, the US is the country’s third-largest inbound market, making up 10% of all international arrivals. Those pre-pandemic 1.3 million annual arrivals from North America dropped a handy NZ$1.53 billion into New Zealand’s economy.
Most (69%) of arrivals from the US came for a holiday. Nearly half preferred to fly in over the southern summer season, but only 5% came from New York state.
Arguably, the lack of direct flights was a reason why. Californians, who normally have good connectivity to New Zealand, made up 23% of all visitors from the US in 2019. Air New Zealand, United Airlines, and American Airlines usually jet back and forth between Auckland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
By getting the New York flights belatedly up and running in 2022, Air New Zealand taps into a big market. It’s a long flight, but Greg Foran probably figures New Zealand looks good in the middle of a New York winter.
What do you think the prospects of Air New Zealand’s New York flights are? Post a comment and let us know.