Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are buckling up for a bumper July. School holidays and pent-up travel demand are boosting domestic passenger numbers. Air New Zealand says it is experiencing “exceptional demand” for domestic travel this month. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s busiest domestic airport terminal has just enjoyed its busiest day since March 2019.
Air New Zealand eyes 7,500 domestic flights across July
On Friday, New Zealand travel trade publication Travel Inc Memo reported that Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are enjoying the busiest month since the travel downturn began.
“We’ve seen a 52% increase in seats for this year’s school holidays versus last year when the July school holidays saw the release of pent-up demand for air travel following national lockdowns,” Leanne Geraghty, Chief Customer and Sales Officer at Air New Zealand told Travel Inc Memo.
“We continue to see exceptional demand. Domestic sales are so strong for July school holidays that we intend to operate 56% more domestic flights than the July 2020 school holidays.”
Air New Zealand’s most up-to-date published hard data covers May 2021. The airline flew 877,000 passengers that month. This compares to just 67,000 passengers in May 2020.
According to Travel Inc Memo, Air New Zealand will operate 7,500 domestic flights this month. The airline is offering 670,000 seats. Queenstown (ZQN) is having a moment in the (winter) sun. ZQN is proving a hit with Air New Zealand’s domestic passengers.
The airline is putting 100,000 seats into the tourist and ski hub in July. Queenstown is also one of the most popular destinations for travelers able to utilize the travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand.
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Domestic passenger numbers 90% of pre-downturn levels in July
Meanwhile, on the North Island, New Zealand’s busiest airport Auckland (AKL), has just enjoyed its busiest day since March 2019. On Friday, the airport expected around 28,000 passengers to move through its domestic terminal.
“Throughout July, we’re expecting domestic travelers to number around 90% of pre-downturn levels,” said Anna Cassels-Brown, Auckland Airport’s General Manager of Operations.
“Our staff have been working steadily through the recovery of the aviation and travel sector. Now we’re ready and excited about our biggest day since the outbreak.”
Anna Cassels-Brown expects around 700,000 passengers to use Auckland’s domestic airport this month. Some 4,000 domestic flights will operate in and out of AKL over July – a 44% increase on the same period last year.
With the two-way travel corridor between Australia and New Zealand fraying around the edges, Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are relying more than ever on domestic passengers.
Australia – New Zealand travel corridor wobbles
Australia remains open to Kiwis, but New Zealand is currently closed to Australians from New South Wales and Queensland. Those two states, home to Sydney and Brisbane, are normally two of Air New Zealand’s biggest international markets. In unfortunate timing, Air New Zealand has recently announced it will start flying year-round into the Queensland tourist ports of Cairns (CNS), the Sunshine Coast (MCY) and introduce a new route into the Gold Coast (OOL).
New Zealand currently allows travelers from the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia to bypass quarantine on arrival. However, the situation is dynamic. Only the capital city of Victoria, Melbourne (MEL), normally has significant amounts of traffic into New Zealand.
With the uncertainties surrounding borders, demand on the trans-Tasman travel corridor is not meeting the pre-opening expectations of airlines. This suggests that Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport will continue eyeing the domestic market to help underwrite their business for some time.