North America Returning Down Under: The Boeing 787 Is Key

The market between North America and Australasia is decent-sized and relatively fast-growing. This week, four airlines have three routes across the Pacific. But come May, when New Zealand is again expected to reopen to tourists (albeit with seven days of isolation), there will be 143 weekly departures – up to 24 a day – across 28 non-stop routes and eight airlines.

Come May, the B787-9 will have six in ten flights between North America and Australasia. Photo: Qantas.

North America to Down Under

In the year to October 2019, there were 6.8 million seats for sale across the Pacific, the highest to date and nearly double what was available in the year-ending (YE) October 2004. That’s based on analyzing Cirum schedules information.

The market has grown annually and up by an average of 4.5% each year. Growth has been faster since 2014, mainly as American entered in December 2015 from Los Angeles to Sydney, while Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Qantas, and United all expanded strongly.

The market is usually reasonably flat – there isn’t much seasonality – helped, of course, by Australia and New Zealand’s summer season in the northern hemisphere’s winter and vice-versa. Thus, the peak month (January) typically has ‘only’ about one-quarter more seats than the nadir (May).

North America to Australia and New Zealand
Between 2004 and 2019, North America to New Zealand seats rose by one-third against 131% for Australia. Source of data: Cirium

Down Under: a long way to go

The impact of restrictions is very obviously why North America to Australia and New Zealand is still at only half of what it had in the pre-pandemic period. Australia, which has slowly begun to reopen, is at almost six in ten North America seats. As always, this doesn’t mean they’ll be sold and, if they are, it doesn’t indicate yields or loads.

Things are different for New Zealand. Due to ongoing stringent entry requirements, which means its border is almost closed, only a minimal number of people can return, and they must stay in a quarantine hotel. As such, the country has just over three in ten North America seats. Chances are, this is still over what is needed, as in September, Air New Zealand reported that its Americas seat load factor was just 46%. Cargo performance will help financially.

More New Zealanders – many of whom are still stuck abroad – can return home from February 13th without the need to stay in a hotel. Significantly, fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be able to enter from April 30th, but all arrivals must self-isolate for a week.

Los Angeles to Auckland
When writing, NZ1005 is en route to Auckland from Los Angeles. It departed at 21:25 on November 23rd and is due to arrive at 06:26 on November 25th. Image:

What’s happening this week?

In the week beginning November 24th, there are 27 departures (nearly four daily) across United, Delta, Air New Zealand, and Qantas. As you’d expect, almost all services are to/from Los Angeles. Other routes will resume in the coming weeks.

  • United 14-weekly: Los Angeles-Sydney (seven) and San Francisco-Sydney (seven)
  • Delta: seven-weekly Los Angeles-Sydney
  • Air New Zealand: three-weekly Los Angeles-Auckland
  • Qantas: three-weekly Los Angeles-Sydney
The B787-9 is key for Air New Zealand to the US and Canada. Photo: Boeing

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A look to this the first week of May

While it’s a few months away and therefore things may change, it’s instructive to look at how North America to Australasia is expected to be in the first seven days of May. Note that as New Zealand’s phased reopening has only very recently been announced, what is currently available in May may not reflect the new situation.

North America to Australasia first week of May 2022
These airport-pairs are all expected to operate non-stop in the first week of next May. Image: GCMap.

Eight airlines to operate non-stop

Between 18 and 24 departures a day are planned from North America in the first week of May. That’s 143 in total and five times more than this week in November. Importantly, it’ll be 86% of what was available back in May 2019, although it may change.

  1. Qantas: 47 weekly non-stop departures
  2. United: 34
  3. Air New Zealand: 23
  4. Hawaiian: 13
  5. American: seven
  6. Air Canada: seven
  7. Delta: seven
  8. Jetstar: five
Delta Air Lines Airbus A350-941 N512DN (2)
Delta uses the A350-900 on its seven-weekly service from Los Angeles to Sydney. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

United is up, but…

While four carriers have the same number of departures as they did in the last ‘normal’ May, United is up by 42%. It’ll have six routes, as discussed below. Its most recent introduction was San Francisco to Melbourne on October 29th, 2019.

Air Canada, meanwhile, is down by almost 60% from Vancouver to Brisbane and Melbourne not being scheduled (although Brisbane is from October 2022). In May, it’ll have only one route: a seven-weekly service from Vancouver to Sydney using the 300-seat B777-200LR.

Across the Pacific_ how have things changed_
Virgin Australia ended widebody service and all long-haul services, including to the US. Source of data: Cirium.

28 non-stop routes

Some 28 non-stop routes will be operated in the first week of May. If airlines are stripped out, there are 18 airport-pairs, with the 7,488-mile (12,051km) Sydney to Los Angeles (obviously) top with one-fifth of the 143 departures. In contrast, Melbourne to Honolulu, 5,504 miles (8,858km) apart, will have just two weekly flights with Jetstar.

  1. Qantas: Sydney to Dallas, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver; Brisbane to Los Angeles and San Francisco; Melbourne to Los Angeles
  2. United: Sydney to Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco; Melbourne to Los Angeles and San Francisco; Auckland to San Francisco
  3. Air New Zealand: Auckland to Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver
  4. Hawaiian: Auckland, Brisbane, and Sydney to Honolulu
  5. American: Sydney to Los Angeles
  6. Air Canada: Sydney to Vancouver
  7. Delta: Sydney to Los Angeles
  8. Jetstar: Sydney and Melbourne to Honolulu
United Boeing 787-9
At 8,596 miles, United’s Houston to Sydney is the longest route.  It has an outbound flight time of 17 hours and 35 minutes. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

The B787-9 has six in ten flights

One type stands out across the Pacific: the B787-9. With 87 of the 143 departures, it’ll be deployed by Air New Zealand, American, Qantas, and United. Notice the A380, which will once again be used by Qantas between Sydney and Los Angeles.

  1. B787-9: 87 weekly departures in the first week of May
  2. A330-200: 23
  3. A350-900: 7
  4. B777-200LR: 7
  5. A380: 6
  6. A330-300: 5
  7. B787-8: 5
  8. B777-200ER: 3

With which airline would you prefer to fly across the Pacific? Let us know in the comments.