Air New Zealand’s troubled ‘non-stop’ service between New York and Auckland is set to make its first layover since launch, which will add five hours to the flight time.
NZ1 from JFK airport, scheduled for October 26 Eastern Daylight Time, is set to face strong headwinds that will force it to stop in Nadi, Fiji.
This is not the first time the new service, the fourth-longest in the world, has run into complications with its nonstop promise, with a previous flight asking 15 passengers to get off the aircraft to save weight. Another instead removed luggage and put it on another flight.
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.
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.
Air New Zealand COO Alex Marren said was decided that the scheduled flight would add the fuel stopover due to a “combination of strong headwinds caused by jet streams and turbulence across the USA”.
“Our priority is getting customers to where they need to go safely,” said Marren. “It’ll mean a short stop in Nadi to refuel and swap over crew, which means NZ1 will arrive into Auckland around five hours later than expected.”
It’s thought to be the first time the Air New Zealand flight has had to make a stopover, one which the company previously branded a “gas and go”.
Passengers have already been informed of the stop, which will see the aircraft refuelled and a new crew put on board due to crew time running out.
Air New Zealand revealed months ago that a stopover in Nadi would potentially be required on some flights.
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 the airline’s CEO, Greg 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.