Air New Zealand will consider permanent deployment of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner between Auckland and Adelaide after assessing the performance of the aircraft, which started seasonal services on the route on Thursday.
Flight NZ191, operated by ZK-NZE, landed at Adelaide Airport at 1030 local time on Thursday, about 10 minutes ahead of schedule, after a four-hour and 15-minute journey from Auckland.
The aircraft was on the ground for abut 70 minutes before operating the reciprocal NZ192 back to Auckland.
Air New Zealand, which began Airbus A320 services on the route about 10 years ago, is the first airline to introduce the Dreamliner to Adelaide Airport.
The Dreamliner will operate three return services a week to Adelaide until March 25 2018 – supplemented with three A320 peak-season services between December 16 and January 27 – before reverting to six weekly A320 services.
At a ceremony to mark the arrival Air New Zealand chief revenue officer Cam Wallace described the introduction of the Dreamliner as “a game-changer”, with passenger capacity to increase by 23 per cent and business class and premium economy to be offered on the route for the first time.
It would also offer quick connections between Adelaide and the airline’s US, Canadian and South American ports.
Wallace agreed the move to bring the Dreamliner to Adelaide during the high season was an experiment. However, he said, there were prospects for permanent services.
“We will do an analysis of the performance during the next quarter, and consider our options then,” he told Australian Aviation.
“We are very pleased with the reaction so far, there’s a lot of demand and our loads are well north of 70 per cent.”
In assessing future operations, the airline would “need to get the balance right” between Dreamliner and A320 frequencies.
Wallace said Air New Zealand had decided to bring the larger aircraft – with 18 business class, 21 premium economy and 263 economy seats – to Adelaide complete the Dreamliner’s Australian destinations and also to give South Australians the opportunity to connect with the airline’s long-haul destinations.
Connections in Auckland to Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Buenos Aires would be timely, and this would benefit air freight movement to North America as well as passengers.
The widebodied Dreamliner was also “a very good aircraft for freight,” he said.
This feature was emphasised by Adelaide Airport’s chief executive, Mark Young, who said the 787 services would increase freight capacity between Adelaide and Auckland by more than 25 per cent, assisting South Australian exporters to New Zealand and beyond.
Passenger traffic between Adelaide and Auckland had been growing by about six per cent year on year and it was expected the advent of the Dreamliner on the route should bring further growth, Young added.
SA Tourism Minister Leon Bignell, who travelled from Auckland on the inaugural flight, said the Dreamliner services would add 410 seats a week to the route, and provide international connections from North America to bring tourists and business travellers to Adelaide.
Wallace said the Dreamliner had proved to be popular with passengers since introducing the aircraft to service in 2014, with the first Australian scheduled service operated between Auckland and Perth on September 14 in that year.
Air New Zealand had a fleet of 10 Dreamliners, with another due for delivery before the end of 2017, he said.
The aircraft will operate as NZ191 from Auckland to Adelaide on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing at 0835 local tinme and arriving in Adelaide at 10.40 am. The return flight NZ192 takes off at 1155 for a 1825 arrival back in Auckland.