Air New Zealand will add a fifth North American destination from December when it starts flying between Auckland and Houston.
The new service will be operated by Boeing 777-200ER aircraft and run up to five times a week, Air NZ said in a statement on Thursday.
Houston will join Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Hawaii as part of Air NZ’s North American network and is set to become the quickest way for New Zealanders to reach the US east cost and midwest.
Star Alliance partner United will place its UA code on Air NZ’s Houston service, and offer codeshare connections from the Texan oil and gas hub to other US domestic destinations, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. United will also codeshare on Air NZ services beyond Auckland.
The launch of the Houston route continues a period of expansion for Air NZ, which recently launched ticket sales for its new Auckland-Buenos Aires service also beginning in December and has been boosting service to Australia, Asia and North America.
“We are absolutely committed to expanding our Pacific Rim network,” Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon said.
“The addition of Houston to our network will mean our customers can fly direct to Texas and then set out to explore one of the most vibrant and fascinating parts of American culture and experience down home southern hospitality through the food, music and sights of Texas and the American South.”
“We also look forward to welcoming more visitors to New Zealand from the southern and Midwest states and major East Coast cities where the option to connect through Houston will effectively make New Zealand’s tourism proposition more accessible than ever before.”
Currently, the only direct service from Oceania to Texas is with Qantas, which flies six times a week from Sydney to Dallas/Fort Worth with Airbus A380s.
Air NZ said the flights would begin in mid-December, without specifying an exact start date. Tickets were due to go on sale in May.
NZ Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key said the direct Houston-Auckland flights would support tourism.
“We already get thousands of visitors a year from states such as Texas, Florida and New York and this new service should allow us to boost those numbers further,” Key said in a statement.
“Providing greater links with these states, with relatively affluent populations, also aligns with New Zealand’s desire to attract more high-spending visitors to further boost our economy.”
The US is NZ’s third largest source of visitors behind Australia and China.