Air New Zealand is heading back to Japan. After suspending its regular services between Auckland and Tokyo Narita in March, Air New Zealand is now confident enough to begin resuming services later this month. But it is going to be an incremental and staged process, with just one flight a week initially.
In a statement seen by Simple Flying, Air New Zealand’s Networks GM, Scott Carr said,
“We’re pleased to be able to welcome customers back onboard as we restart services to Narita this month, however, we know the rebuilding of our international network is going to take considerable time.”
The Tokyo flights will initially run once a week
Flights will resume on Thursday, June 25. NZ99 will push back from Auckland at 23:15 for the eleven-hour 8,800-kilometer flight north, landing at 07:20 the following morning. After allowing for the crew layover, the return flight (NZ90) will depart from Tokyo Narita at 15:30 on Saturday, June 27, and arrive back into Auckland at 05:05 the following day.
From the following week, the departure from Auckland will be on a Tuesday, and the return flight will leave Tokyo Narita on Friday. Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners will operate the flights. The Dreamliners feature economy class (including the SkyCouch product), premium economy, and business class.
Air New Zealand has done a good job of maintaining some international links
The resumption of services follows New Zealand declaring itself coronavirus free. Japan has indicated it will allow New Zealanders to enter the country and skip quarantine if they have evidence they are coronavirus free.
Despite barriers, Air New Zealand has done a good job of keeping some international services operating. The return of Narita to its schedule builds on this. While Air New Zealand’s international capacity is down 95%, it has maintained links to a handful of cities. These include Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Melbourne.
There is also an expectation that flights to Australia will increase soon. These increased services may not be to Sydney or Melbourne either. New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has suggested Queensland and Tasmania could be first in line for increased flights from New Zealand.
“Rather than being confined or constrained by the states that are not succeeding with COVID-19, why don’t we just deal with Tasmania for example, and Queensland, and start there?” Mr Peters told Stuff earlier this week.
“The trans-Tasman bubble should have been open, like level 1, yesterday. As soon as they [the Australian Government] say we are ready to go, we are off.”
Domestic flying takes off
While the uncertainty makes it difficult for Air New Zealand to plan its international operations, domestic flying is taking off. Air New Zealand expects to be flying at 55% of its usual capacity in July. The airline is now flying to all of its regular domestic airports. On key trunk routes, capacity is ramping up. On busy routes, such as between Wellington and Christchurch, there are now over nine services a day.
A resurgent domestic sector will help buffer issues involving international flying. But as the resuming service to Japan indicates, there is room for optimism here too. Before suspending its Narita flights, Air New Zealand operated up to 10 services a week. As demand slowly recovers, Air New Zealand hopes to ratchet up to that kind of frequency again.