Air New Zealand will fly non-stop to New York from September, after the pandemic sank plans to fly to the Big Apple in 2020.
Instead of flying into Newark, New Jersey as planned then, the airline will fly into John F. Kennedy Airport. It will fly three times a week, year-round with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft which will be at the edge of its range.
At just over 16 hours northbound and 17 and a half hours southbound, the 14,200km flight is one of the longest in the world. It was to have used its premium-heavy Dreamliners on the route when it first announced in 2019.
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran says with international flying on hiatus for two years and the New Zealand border reopening on May 2 to visa-waiver countries, this is the moment Kiwis have been waiting for.
"New York is an iconic yet familiar city, a bucket list item. And now for the first time, Kiwis can visit the city of all cities with a non-stop flight. New Zealand lets you slow down – in New York, everything is bigger and faster, it's exciting and awe-inspiring – and it's now closer than ever."
Foran, whose last job before Air NZ was heading Walmart in the US, said the US has been a key market, and this new route cements the airline's commitment to developing growing tourism opportunities between the two countries.
In the six years leading up to Covid, the US visitor numbers to New Zealand doubled and it is estimated that spending by arrivals would contribute an additional $65 million a year into the local economy.
The launch of the flight comes at a critical time for Air New Zealand which has plans to launch a $1 billion plus capital raise soon to shore up its balance sheet. The announcement also comes as the airline faces higher fuel costs as oil prices spike due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The inaugural NZ2 will depart Auckland at 4pm on Saturday, September 17.
From September 19, flights depart at 7.40pm on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving just before 8pm in New York. The airline will use Terminal 1 at JFK.
"Traditionally, flight numbers 1 and 2 are used for an airline's flagship route. And that's what New York will be – our flagship route," said Foran.
When first announced in October 2019 it would have been the fifth longest non-stop flight in the world. Two longer flights - Doha to Auckland and Dubai to Auckland - now fly with stops in Australia.
"We've worked incredibly hard over the last few years to make this ultra-long-haul service a reality. To ensure customers arrive in New York feeling refreshed, we've put a lot of thought into the onboard experience and teams are working around the clock to make sure this a great flying experience."
Foran said the new service further deepens the alliance between Air New Zealand and United Airlines.
United is one of the world's biggest airlines with connections to domestic destinations across the US, Canada and Britain. For those wanting to explore more of Europe, customers can also fly direct from New York to Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, Brussels, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Stockholm
The new service will also provide greater choice for travellers between New Zealand and North America, with the airline serving seven destinations in North America – Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver - and soon - New York.
In 2018 the airline launched non-stop flights to Chicago, then the longest in its network.
The New York flights were scheduled to use 787-9 with 275 seats, including 27 business class seats, 33 premium economy seats, and 215 economy seats.