Air New Zealand says it plans to drop its Los Angeles-London Heathrow service and launch nonstop Auckland-New York Newark flights from October 2020 with Boeing 787-9 equipment.
The New Zealand flag carrier will be the first airline in Oceania to offer nonstop flights from this part of the world to the United States east coast.
The Auckland-Newark Liberty International Airport (which is in neighbouring New Jersey) route would be served three times a week using Boeing 787-9s configured in a premium-heavy layout, Air New Zealand said on Wednesday.
Air New Zealand said the Auckland-New York Newark routes, which is 7,655nm, would have a flight time of 15 hours and 40 minutes northbound and 17 hours and 40 minutes southbound.
Air New Zealand said it would use 787-9s with a higher proportion of business and premium economy seats to serve New York Newark. The “Code 2” layout comprised 27 seats in business, 33 seats in premium economy and 215 seats in economy for a total of 275.
This was 27 fewer seats than Air New Zealand’s standard 787-9 configuration.
In May, Air New Zealand signed a letter of intent to buy eight Boeing 787-10s, with an option for a further 12 aircraft, to replace eight ageing 777-200ERs.
At that time, it said the deal includes the flexibility to toggle between 787-9 aircraft and 787-10s, depending on market conditions and routes chosen during the delivery cycle of 2022-2027.
Also, then chief executive Christopher Luxon hinted flights to New York or other eastern United States could start before the first of the new fleet was delivered.
Air New Zealand to end Los Angeles-London Heathrow
However, nonstop New York flights were being launched at the expense of the airline’s Auckland-Los Angeles-London Heathrow flight, with the Los Angeles-London Heathrow leg being discontinued from October 2020.
Air New Zealand acting chief executive Jeff McDowall said while it was hard to farewell such an iconic route, the airline had to remain focused on markets with the greatest opportunity for long-term profitable growth.
“Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim,” McDowall said in a statement.
“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service to Chicago is exceeding expectations. New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to make this milestone a reality.
Further, McDowall said New Zealanders had “more than twice the number of ways to fly to London than a decade ago”, nothing that preferences had changed.
“Less than seven per cent of all airline travellers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year,” McDowall said.
“At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the North American and European airlines we’re up against.
Air New Zealand said the end of the daily Los Angeles-London Heathrow tag flight would result in the closure of the airline’s London cabin crew base, as well as the loss of about 25 jobs among sales and ground staff.
McDowall said the airline would look to redeploy affected staff in other areas of the business.
The other airline in Oceania considering operating to New York and London, among other destinations, was Qantas, which was currently evaluating whether to launch these ultra long-haul flights some time in 2023.
VIDEO: An Air New Zealand video of acting chief executive Jeff McDowall talking about the launch of Auckland-New York nonstop flights and decision to end the Los Angeles-London Heathrow operation.
Current longest nonstop passenger flights by distance (nautical miles)
1. New York Newark-Singapore (8,285nm) – operated by Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR.
2. Auckland-Doha (7,848nm) – operated by Qatar Airways with Boeing 777-200LR.
3. London Heathrow-Perth (7,829nm) – operated by Qantas Airways with Boeing 787-9
4. Auckland-Dubai (7,668nm) – operated by Emirates Airline with Airbus A380
5. Los Angeles-Singapore (7,621nm) – Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR
6. Houston-Sydney (7,470nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9
7. Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,454nm) – operated by Qantas with Airbus A380
8. Manila-New York (JFK) (7,404nm) – Philippine Airlines with Airbus A350-900
9. San Francisco-Singapore (7,339nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9 and Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900
10. Atlanta-Johannesburg (7,333nm) – operated by Delta Air Lines with Boeing 777-200LR
Planned future routes
1. Brisbane-Chicago (7,735nm) – to be operated by Qantas with Boeing 787-9. From April 2020
2. Auckland-New York Newark (7,655nm) – to be operated by Air New Zealand with Boeing 787-9. From October 2020
1. Sydney-London (LHR) (9,188nm) – Qantas
2. Sydney-New York (JFK) (8,646nm) – Qantas
3. Melbourne-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,814nm) – Qantas