Will Air New Zealand gazump Qantas with direct flights to Chicago?

By David Flynn, February 5 2018
Will Air New Zealand gazump Qantas with direct flights to Chicago?

Is Air New Zealand about to beat Qantas to the punch by announcing non-stop flights to Chicago?

That's the current buzz, based on a forthcoming visit to the land of the long white cloud by former US President and son of Chicago Barack Obama.

The New Zealand Herald reports the visit, set for "about March 21", has been arranged by Air New Zealand via the close relationship between former NZ Prime Minister and current AirNZ board member Sir John Key, and will be used to announce the start of direct flights between Auckland and Chicago.

This would be Obama's first trip to New Zealand and come with a reported $400,000 price tag, although Air New Zealand would bet that the extensive publicity generated by Obama's visit would be priceless.

Air New Zealand has long tapped Australian travellers for its international services to the USA and South America, with Auckland as a sole stopover; from stateside, Chicago is also a hub for Star Alliance partner United Airlines.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously tipped Chicago as one of three potential routes for its own Boeing 787-9 fleet – the other candidates include Seattle and Dallas/Forth Worth.

However, as this would rely on one of the Boeing 787s based in Brisbane, Qantas travellers from Sydney and Melbourne would first need to fly north to Brisbane and be bussed from the domestic to international terminal before hopping onto the Chicago-bound Dreamliner.

There's also been speculation that additional US services out of Brisbane could run only a handful of days each week, rather than the daily frequency prized by travellers and especially corporate flyers, due to Qantas planning for 11 Brisbane-Los Angeles Boeing 787s by the end of 2018.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1000

Maybe QF is putting the 11 weekly 787 BNE-LAX because they don't yet know what they will do for the other route, and they need to do something with the aircraft and will cut back to 7 weekly once they see bookings and work out what they are doing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 95

Sir John was one of the best PMs that our friends across the ditch have ever had. Good to see he remains involved with Air NZ and marketing his fine country to the world.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Nov 2016

Total posts 134

Interesting stage with new routes being touted in a somewhat tug of war between QF and ANZ. ANZ are awesome and a top notch airline based on past experiences of flying them long haul. Sir John and President Obama will only help them. Sitting in Sydney and if I were to fly to Chicago, transitting through Auckland would be better than Brisbane. If flying QF then transitting through Dallas would be better than having to go via BNE. All in all more choices coming for the traveller.


21 Jul 2011

Total posts 72

NZ plans ahead and takes risks. End of story.

05 Feb 2018

Total posts 1

If I was going to Chicago or near there then going from Sydney if Air NZ can do that I’d rather transfer in Auckland than in Brisbane or through LA or Dallas. Auckland’s pretty good and the Air NZ flights to the West Coast US are at good times.

10 Aug 2015

Total posts 130

This would be hilarious. Air NZ near zero media attention cut to the chase. Qantas non-stop media attention yet no action (yet)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2015

Total posts 41

Huh ? No JFK direct yet is there...


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1123

They may be waiting to see findings on the load issues on Perth London as Brisbane Chicago is also quite a ways, and they don’t want to be dropping too many seats on the way back.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 195

It will interesting to see if Air NZ will do AKL/ORD non-stop service as United hasn't been that keen on idea. Air NZ 13th B787-9 with increase premium product will be delivered this year. If it happens, it will differently trump Qantas plans, allowing Air NZ to MEL/ADL/SYD/BNE to AKL and ORD routing for Australian travelers.


25 Sep 2017

Total posts 5

MEL SYD and BNE can do one stop to ORD already. Not sure AKL stop will appeal


16 Nov 2014

Total posts 15

Interesting how Air NZ was almost technically bankrupt a little while ago, bailed out by the govt, then rapidly back in the black. They also jumped on the B787 way earlier than QF, who gave it to Jetstar to save fuel money and lower costs, thus snubbing the high-end market who love trying new planes. QF "strategy" with the B787 is pretty rubbish, for an airline at the A end of the world, as is Air NZ.


25 Sep 2017

Total posts 5

I think Air NZ should return to FRA but do it via PER.

Opens up a new market for them and connects to their Star alliance partner LH.

Do a deal with SQ and LH on code share.

Now that would gazump QF.

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