Fifteen passengers were asked to get off Air New Zealand’s direct flight from New York to Auckland so it could avoid a stopover in Fiji, in yet another bow to the flagship service.
The airline said the decision – which made the aircraft lighter and increased its range – was because of “unusually strong” headwinds forecast on the route.
Critics have suggested the 787-9’s range simply isn’t long enough to accommodate the 16 or 17-hour flight if unforeseen events cause it to have to slightly change its route.
Air New Zealand said in response to the new issue that the weather forecast was “outside of the usual forecasting” and “more extreme” than found in its 12 months of modelling conducted prior to its launch.
The 15 customers, who volunteered, were moved to alternative flights.
“We want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding while we work through this exceptional weather pattern,” said the airline.
The 787-9, ZK-NZQ, eventually departed New York at 9:49pm on 26 September as flight NZ1 and landed in Auckland at 7:30am on Tuesday morning.
The distance issues come because the 787-9s have a traditional range of 14,010km, far shorter than the A350-1000s that Qantas will eventually use to fly Project Sunrise flights to New York and London, which can travel for near 18,000km.
The embarrassing issues come despite Air New Zealand launching the service with great fanfare and designating it the prestigious ‘NZ1’ flight number for its 17-hour flight from New York to Auckland, and NZ2 for the 16-hour reverse.
“As one of the world’s greatest cities, Air New Zealand is proud to add the Big Apple to its list of 29 international destinations,” said Foran.
“By adding greater access to the East Coast of the US, we’re connecting our North American customers to the possibilities of 20 destinations within New Zealand as well as the Pacific and Australia, all within easy reach. This is terrific for our customers.”
The carrier will soon serve seven destinations in North America: Chicago (from 31 October), Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, and New York City.
Qantas is planning a similar service to the Big Apple from Australia via Auckland using the same 787-9s from 14 June next year.
However, the Flying Kangaroo pointed to an earlier statement that the aircraft it ordered would be designed “with more room and fewer seats than most of our competitors”. It said the Dreamliner cabins are “well suited to longer international flights”.
Qantas has also been using the same aircraft for its 15-hour flights from Perth to Rome.