Air New Zealand lifting capacity to Houston in 2018

Air New Zealand will use the Boeing 787-9 to Houston from December 2017. (Andrew Aley)
Air New Zealand will use the Boeing 787-9 to Houston from December 2017. (Andrew Aley)

Air New Zealand is adding extra flights to Houston in 2018 in response to strong demand.

The Star Alliance member plans to increase its five times a week service on the Auckland-Houston route to daily or six times weekly during a six-month period from from March 25 to October 27 2018.

This represented an additional 16,000 seats on the route, Air New Zealand said on Wednesday.

The airline started serving Houston, a major hub for its alliance partner United, in December 2015 with Boeing 777-200ER equipment. However, from December 2017 it is switching to the Boeing 787-9 with that features a more premium heavy configuration.

Air New Zealand chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said there was strong demand at both ends of the route.

“A strategic gateway into America’s south, Houston is unlocking huge demand for travel to New Zealand from across the South, Mid-west and Mid-Atlantic regions, with annual visitor arrivals up 21 percent from Texas and 25 percent from New York,” Wallace said in a statement.

“As a transit hub, Houston also offers Kiwi travellers better onward connections to popular East Coast destinations like New York, Boston and Miami.”

The US is NZ’s third largest source of visitors behind Australia and China.

Air New Zealand’s first nine 787-9s have 302 seats spread across 18 in business, 21 in premium economy and 263 in economy.

However, the next four to arrive in the fleet – two in 2017/18 and two in 2018/19 – will have 20 per cent more premium seats with the cabin featuring what the airline has called its “Code 2” configuration comprising 27 seats in business, 33 in premium economy and 215 in economy for a total of 275.

The first “Code 2” aircraft arrived in Auckland on Sunday.

Air New Zealand deploys its 787-9s mainly on trans-Tasman, Pacific Island and Asian services, while its Boeing 777-200ER and 777-300ERs are predominantly used on flights to the Americas. In recent times, the airline has also been using the 787-9 to Buenos Aires.

The airline said on Wednesday Houston would be the first time the 787-9 would regularly service one of its North American routes, which also includes nonstop flights to Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver.

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