Air New Zealand is hoping Australia will be the goose that lays the golden egg as the airline launches a new marketing push to grow passenger numbers from this side of the Tasman travelling to the Americas via its Auckland hub.
The Star Alliance member has enlisted the voice of Australian actor Bryan Brown in its new advertising campaign, which was officially launched in Sydney on Thursday and will premiere nationally on television on Sunday night, and established state-based sales teams to spread the message about its network in North and South America.
Passenger research showed only four in 10 Australians were aware Air New Zealand flew to destinations beyond the Tasman, the airline’s chief executive Christopher Luxon told invited guests, media and airline staff during the official launch of the “Better Way to Fly” campaign.
The campaign, as well as the bolstered bricks-and-mortar sales presence across the states, was designed to change those Australian perceptions of the New Zealand carrier,
“Most Australians know us as flying on the Tasman and we’ve been doing that job I think incredibly well,” Luxon said.
“We want a slice of the Australian long-haul market, especially the traffic that heads from Australia through to North and South America.”
Air New Zealand serves Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver in North America, as well as Buenos Aires in Argentina. It also flies to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Luxon said about 20 per cent of passengers on its Houston service, and about 40 per cent of passengers bound for Buenos Aires were from Australia. Both routes were launched in December 2015. The figure was in the double digits on the rest of its North American network.
The chief executive said the airline was hoping to take a bigger slice of the Australian long-haul market, noting a quarter of all international/long-haul departures from this country were headed to the United States, South America or Canada.
“We are really comfortable in our ability to compete and make a really attractive proposition for Australians to come through Auckland to the Americas,” Luxon told reporters after the official launch.
“For us, transiting through Auckland is a very seamless experience.”
Luxon said the push for more Australian transfer traffic to the Americas could pave the way for more widebody services on its trans-Tasman schedule.
The trans-Pacific market has experienced strong growth in recent times, given the launch of the two Air New Zealand long-haul routes to Houston and Buenos Aires, as well as the arrival of new services from American (Los Angeles to both Auckland and Sydney) United (San Francisco to Auckland), Air Canada (Brisbane to Vancouver) and Qantas (Sydney to San Francisco).
That has led to pressure on yields, as airlines offered bargain fares to maintain load factors.
Asked about the state of the market, Luxon took a long-term view.
“What Australia and New Zealand have to offer as a tourism proposition is immense,” Luxon said.
“There is a tidal wave of demand sitting out there – whether you are sitting in Asia, the Americas, Australasia – that’s coming our way whether we are ready for it or not.
“Just be really clear, that’s the canvas by which our business is really painted on.
“In the short term, what we’ve had in New Zealand is we’ve had a tremendous amount of competition show up in a very concentrated short period of time. That’s just about an adjustment period for us.”
Air New Zealand chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said the airline offered a broad network of international destinations and talked up the advantages of an international-to-international connection over Auckland rather than a domestic-to-international transit in Australia.
In the advertising campaign, Brown is the voice of “Dave”, a migratory goose that has chosen to make his regular trip to North America on Air New Zealand rather than with his regular flock.
“I would argue we are not just your bog standard airline with some boring people who look very dissatisfied with their jobs, we are not just doing the boring inflight safety videos or the sameness of advertising of insert airline logo here,” Luxon said.
“We are determined and we always have been doing things incredibly differently.”