Air New Zealand’s first-ever direct flight between Auckland and New York launched on Saturday – nine months before Qantas’ rival service begins.
The Kiwi flag carrier’s CEO, Greg Foran, quipped his staff would give its rival “a good wave when we pass them in the skies” ahead of the 16-hour ultra-long-haul flight.
The 787-9, ZK-NZN, departed Auckland at 4:23pm on 17 September as flight NZ2 and landed in New York 4:09pm the same day, due to time zone differences.
The three-times-weekly route was given 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.
It comes as Qantas plans to launch its own New York service via Auckland from 14 June next year. Its service will operate three days a week “initially” and also use 787-9s, three of which will be newly delivered in 2023.
Chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline “can’t wait” to return to New York.
“It’s made possible by the delivery of new aircraft, which have been caught up in delays that have impacted lots of airlines,” he said.
“Customer feedback on our direct London and Rome services show how well suited our Dreamliner cabins are to longer international flights like these, which is helped by the fact we designed them with more room and fewer seats than most of our competitors.
“We think this route will be very popular with Australians given the opportunity to connect via Auckland and it also gives New Zealanders more choice.”
Qantas currently operates six daily services to Auckland from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne which will increase to 11 when the New York service begins.