Air New Zealand has welcomed its latest short-haul Airbus A320neo aircraft as the airline prepares for international travel to kickstart again.
The narrowbody touched down at Auckland Airport late Wednesday night and is the first of two joining its fleet, the second is slated to arrive next week.
“It’s welcome news, particularly in the context of the challenges that COVID has brought upon our business,” said Air New Zealand’s chief pilot Captain David Morgan.
“It won’t be sitting on the tarmac for long, before it’s jetting out of Auckland across the Tasman and into the Pacific Islands,” Morgan added.
“We’re starting to gear up now so it’s a tremendously exciting time for the team at Air New Zealand.”
After travelling from France through Canada, Los Angeles, Honolulu, the Cook Islands and then landing in Auckland, it is now preparing for service.
On Monday – when international travel was resumed following an 18-month long pause in Australia – quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia also resumed.
While it is temporarily only a one-way bubble, double-jabbed tourists from New Zealand will be allowed into Australia.
Despite this, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has held a tight rein on further international travel from New Zealand, and reopening plans still remain uncertain.
“Our new A320 is a welcome sign of international travel being just on the horizon,” Morgan said.
Air New Zealand currently operates five A320neos – two of the jets are parked – and this will be the first to join the fleet since 2019, according to Planespotters.
The Auckland-based carrier owns a fleet of 105 aircraft, and the A320 variant is its second most operated jet.
In December 2020, the airline recalled 175 stood down A320 cabin crew in preparation for the resumption of trans-Tasman flights earlier this year.
The employees were furloughed from last June and Air New Zealand was set on operating its short-haul workhorse for flights in and out of Australia and to Rarotonga.
Captain Morgan said the new A320neo that can carry 165 passengers is operated with a quieter engine.
Airbus’ engine options allow for 15 per cent fuel burning saving, and Captain Morgan said it will “deliver very efficient and sustainable” journeys for customers.
“Someone is going to have an exciting day when they jump into an airplane and whether they’re flying to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, undoubtedly they’ll notice – instead of new car smell – the new plane smell,” Morgan said.