Hong Kong Airlines’ inaugural service to Auckland touched down amid cloudy skies on Friday morning, adding an element of competition on a route currently served by Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand as part of a joint-venture.
Flight HX21, operated by Airbus A330-200 B-LNF, landed at Auckland Airport at 0715 local time on Friday, after a 10 and a half hour journey from Hong Kong.
The aircraft, which received a water cannon salute on its way to the passenger terminal, was on the ground for about four hours before taking off as the reciprocal HX22 back for Hong Kong.
The A330-200s that will be used on Hong Kong Airlines’ daily service were configured in a two-class configuration comprising 24 angled lie-flat business and 259 economy seats.
Hong Kong Airlines chief commercial officer Li Dianchun said there had been an “overwhelming response from travellers” for the new service and he hoped there would be good demand at both ends of the route.
“We expect New Zealand will become a popular destination with our travellers who would like to enjoy the stunning beauty of this country,” Li said in a statement.
“Leveraging on our connectivity in Asia via the international hub Hong Kong, we believe this Hong Kong Airlines new service to Auckland will be welcomed by passengers from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Okinawa, Tokyo, Bangkok and Taipei, offering them more travel options.
“We also anticipate strong demand out of the New Zealand market to Hong Kong and connecting on our network in Asia.”
In August 2015, Cathay and Air New Zealand – the only two airlines flying between Auckland and Hong Kong prior to Hong Kong Airlines’ arrival on Friday – received government approval to extend their alliance until October 2019.
The JV involves codesharing on each other’s services between Hong Kong and NZ, while the Kiwi flag carrier also has access to Cathay’s network across North Asia and China. The two airlines also offer reciprocal frequent flyer benefits.
Hong Kong Airlines said in September the daily Auckland service would go to 10 times weekly between December 2016 and February 2017.
The company has appointed its first general manager for New Zealand, with Daniel Yuen to “oversee all operational sales and marketing strategies for Hong Kong Airlines” in the country.
Yuen, who was formerly in the airline’s sales and marketing team based in Hong Kong, said the opportunity to “grow revenue and further develop relationships with our industry partners” would be his immediate focus.
“This is an extremely exciting move and also a particularly dynamic time for Hong Kong Airlines,” Yuen said.
“In this year alone, we have already launched 10 new routes. We are delighted to operate in the New Zealand market, particularly following the recent success on our Australian route.”
The full-service carrier is part of Chinese airline and aviation company HNA Group, which is a major shareholder of Virgin Australia.
In May, Virgin and HNA announced plans to form a commercial partnership and alliance, which will also include the Australian carrier mounting flights to Beijing and Hong Kong from June 1 2017 with Airbus A330-200 aircraft from a yet-to-be-announced Australian city.
The proposed tie-up required Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approval.
Hong Kong Airlines’ Auckland schedule
Hong Kong to Auckland
15:20/ 07:30 +1
Auckland to Hong Kong
09:30 / 15:55