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Air NZ new route helps it stay on top of competition

Air New Zealand announced the longest route on the airline's network this morning as it battles to stay competitive. 

Calida Smylie
Thu, 16 Apr 2015

Air New Zealand [NZX: AIR] announced this morning it will begin the longest route on its network – Auckland to Houston, Texas – from December.

Its refitted Boeing 777-200 aircraft will fly the route up to five times a week in a code share with US-owned United Airlines, its Star Alliance partner, which has a large Houston hub.

Air NZ says the route – its fourth US destination – will be the fastest way for Kiwis to get to East Coast and mid-west destinations. 

It will take about 13 hours 50 minutes to make the almost 11,990km flight to Houston and an extra 40 minutes to fly back to New Zealand because of prevailing head winds.

That is 30 minutes more than the airline's current longest flight, the Auckland to Vancouver service, which is about 11,340km.

The airline has been hinting about a new North America route in recent months, as it battles to stay competitive. Tickets are expected to go on sale next month.

Houston is an understandable choice, since it is handy for leisure and business travellers, with easy access to NASA's Johnson Space Center and Mission Control, the country music home in Nashville, Tennessee, the jazz capital of New Orleans and Florida resorts all relatively close.

"We are absolutely committed to expanding our Pacific Rim network," Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon says.

 “Houston offers our customers direct access into the heart of the American South and a world of new tourism experiences.”

The airline also recently announced it will begin flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December, and has increased the number of flight to LA to three daily in peak times in a year.

Air NZ is set to do well this year on the back of oil prices being at a two-year low, and its offshore revenue doing well out of the weak New Zealand dollar.

The national carrier performed strongly at half-year reporting in February, with record normalised earnings before tax of $216 million up 20% on the same time last year.

However, with lower global fuel prices the New Zealand to North America route is becoming more attractive for another airline, which would end Air NZ’s precious monopoly.

Industry sources suggest American Airlines – a Qantas partner – is seriously weighing up launching either an Auckland-San Francisco or Auckland-Los Angeles routes.

The US is New Zealand's third-largest visitor market behind Australia and China, with 226,608 arrivals in the year to February – a 10% increase on the previous year.

Calida Smylie
Thu, 16 Apr 2015
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Air NZ new route helps it stay on top of competition