American Airlines’ arrival in New Zealand has received a traditional welcome after touching down in Auckland on Saturday morning.
Flight AA83, operated by Boeing 787-8 registration N814AA, took off at about 2300 Thursday (local time) from Los Angeles and landed in Auckland a little over 12 hours later just after 0620 Saturday.
The inaugural service was greeted with a water cannon salute, while passengers and invited guests were met with a traditional welcome in the terminal.
For more photos, check out Auckland Airport’s Facebook page here.
American alliance partner and fellow oneworld member Qantas is placing its QF airline code on the new service as part of the joint-venture partnership between the two carriers.
The return service to Los Angeles was scheduled as an afternoon departure from Auckland for a morning arrival in Los Angeles.
The US carrier’s daily Auckland-Los Angeles offering breaks Air New Zealand’s monopoly on the route and follows the airline launching flights to Sydney with its own aircraft just before Christmas.
American vice president for global marketing Fernand Fernandez said Auckland was a destination the airline had “admired for a long time”.
“This new route is critically important for American’s strategic expansion in the Asia Pacific region and a key part of our partnership with Qantas,” Fernandez said in a statement.
Qantas International chief executive Gareth Evans said American’s daily service brought competition on the route for the first time in many years.
“The bigger, stronger partnership we’re building with American Airlines is all about giving our customers more options and better experiences, and we’re expecting that to translate into more tourism and trade for the New Zealand economy,” Evans said.
Qantas dropped its Airbus A330-200 Auckland-Los Angeles offering in May 2012.
The arrival of the latest new service on the highly competitive trans-Pacific market, following Qantas’s return to San Francisco, American’s arrival to Sydney and Air New Zealand’s Auckland-Houston flight, comes at a time when all players have been offering plenty of low fares in an effort to stimulate demand.
Travel websites have reported US-New Zealand itineraries, including some via Australia, were being offered for as low as $US225 return in April. There have also been sales for US-Australia flights for less than $US400.
While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has approved the Qantas-American joint business agreement, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) was still evaluating the application.
This meant that while Qantas and American were able to align pricing on tickets sold in Australia, the pair was not able to do so on outbound US fares without the green light on the alliance from the DOT.
In early June, Evans said the partnership with American had stimulated inbound traffic coming into Australia.
“The fact that yields have impacted is absolutely nothing to do with the non-approval from the US DOT,” Evans told reporters on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Dublin on June 2.
“I mean, that is just a natural cycle of capacity and competition that is happening on the markets right now.”
Evans described Australian outbound demand to North America as “very robust”, with business travel strong and leisure travel “remarkably resilient in the face of a weakening Australian dollar”.
“It’s great to see we’ve got that demand strength at the Australian end of the route,” Evans said.
“With Australia becoming more affordable, that takes a little time to seep into the American psyche so you don’t see an immediate reaction from the US end, but we are starting to see that start to take place now.”
“Overall demand is reasonable strong from both ends of the route and strengthening from the US end of the route.”
There is more new US-New Zealand capacity coming in July, when United begins San Francisco-Auckland service, also with Boeing 787s. The service will be operated in partnership with Air New Zealand.