Long planned Boeing 787 services between Houston and Auckland have apparently fallen victim to airline arm wrestling over Houston’s airports.
The 787 services, which was to have been operated by United Airlines (after its merger with Continental Airlines), were originally scheduled to commence in 2011 but had already been pushed back due to long delays in 787 production.
This week, Houston’s city council approved Southwest Airlines’ plans to expand the city’s second airport in order to accommodate international flights. That plan had been opposed by United Continental, which has its biggest hub at Houston’s George Bush International Airport and said competition from the second airport would siphon away passengers and force it to reduce services.
Following the approval of Southwest’s plans, United on Thursday reported sent out a memo to staff saying it would be forced to cut 1,300 jobs and reduce international capacity by 10 per cent.
In a statement, Auckland Airport said it had been advised by United that the cutbacks would “likely impact” the planned Boeing 787 service to Auckland.
“It is very disappointing that this important new service connecting New Zealand to the United States has been caught up in a local Houston dispute over airports,” Auckland Airport CEO Simon Moutter said. “It is equally frustrating that the delays in the delivery of the B787 aircraft have meant that the service was not already well underway by now.”
Mr Moutter added, “We firmly believe that New Zealand needs more air-capacity to North America and more carrier choice, and that Auckland remains an attractive proposition for airlines. We’ll continue to talk to United about options to connect to Auckland, and we will now increase our level of engagement with other carriers to explore a number of viable opportunities. We are confident of converting one of these opportunities in coming months.”