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Air New Zealand plans to join Qantas in launching non-stop flights from Auckland to New York and Chicago on the back of a new generation of ultra-long range jets.
The Star Alliance member airline is looking at both the Airbus A350-900ULR and the Boeing 777X jets.
Qantas is weighing up a similar decision, although the airline is pressing Airbus and Boeing to further extend the range of both aircraft in order to launch direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London – flights which would take some 20 hours, compared to 18 hours to New York.
Those same long-legged jets could find their way across the Tasman, with Air New Zealand planning replacements for its Boeing 777-200ER fleet in the early 2020s.
However, while Qantas sees non-stop flights as bait for business travellers, Air New Zealand considers the NZ-US routes as primarily for “premium leisure travellers” rather than “corporate road warriors,” airline CEO Chris Luxon tells Forbes.
The US is AirNZ's largest long-range market, and the sheer distance of Auckland from North America, South America and Asia means “we end up flying a normal [international] flight of 12 or 13 hours,” Luxon says.