Long-haul Air NZ passengers up 4.8% in May

Number of Kiwis departing for Asia and Australia boost figures.

BUSINESSDESK: Air New Zealand's long-haul passenger numbers rose 4.8% in May, led by increase in the number of Kiwis departing for Asia and Australia.

The airline, slated for government sell-down, carried 910,000 passengers in May, up 2% from a year earlier, it said.

Long-haul passengers increased to 103,000 from 98,000, while domestic traffic crept up 1.7% to 807,000.

Passengers carried on the Asia, Japan and the UK routes increased by 10.8% to 41,000, followed by Australia and the Pacific, up 5.9% to 195,000.

Air New Zealand named Christopher Luxon as its new chief executive on Tuesday.

Mr Luxon is the airline’s general manager for international and will replace Rob Fyfe at the end of the year.

Mr Luxon sees profit in Kiwis heading to the US as the airliner targets a $110 million lift in earnings from its long-haul services by 2015.

In February, the airline announced it was looking to explore opportunities in South America, Asia and North America, while deepening its Chinese network.

"North America has experienced huge growth in the last 12-months - our projections see huge growth," Mr Luxon said in a conference call. "It's just how we are going to access it."

Passengers travelling to North America and Britain rose 1.1% to 62,000 in May.

Earlier this week the airline started its first non-stop flight to Bali. The seasonal service will operate two direct flights a week until October.

Shares in Air New Zealand are currently trading at 86.5 cents.

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