Greg Foran had indicated that he wanted to return home from his big job at Walmart in the United States, while Air New Zealand needed a high-calibre chief executive.
New chairwoman Dame Therese Walsh was leading the hunt with other board members and international consultants Spencer Stuart.
She says Foran ticked all the boxes.
"You never know whether that is going to pan out or not. But it was certainly worth talking to him, so we did that and that progressed until we got to the pointy end and he was the one we offered the job to," she says.
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Other candidates were interviewed for the job as part of the global search.
"With Greg the stars had aligned — he's obviously performed brilliantly on the global stage over a number of years in a number of roles. He's a really passionate Kiwi, it's palpable and obvious and he was really keen to come back to New Zealand."
They met several times and there were lots of phone calls, texts, and emails with Foran at his Arkansas home.
Coming back to an iconic brand was a good fit for Foran, aged 58.
While Air NZ chose a man for the top job, Walsh says the board is fully aware of the growing pressure for more women airline executives.
"In terms of the gender issue, and as a woman who on behalf of the board led the process, you're very conscious to make sure you've really scoured for the best female talent that we could find," she says.
"But at the end of the day our responsibility as a board is to appoint the best possible candidate that we could find, male or female, and in this case it was Greg."
Air New Zealand's seven-member board has four women directors (including Walsh as chair) and its 10-member executive has three women.
"I hope that at some stage there will be a female chief executive," Walsh says. "But right now our obligation, our process is geared up to look at everybody."
Foran was paid nearly US$13.4m ($21m) for leading Walmart in the US as executive vice-president of the retail giant, which has sales more than twice the size of this country's $300 billion GDP and 1 million staff.
While his Air NZ salary will be disclosed, Walsh is not prepared to name the figure just yet.
"I'll leave that at the moment," she says. "It's fair to say that the remuneration is what you'd expect in a New Zealand context.
"It will be disclosed in due course once we've got that all in place. From his perspective, I know there's a lot of interest in what he will be paid but I think people will think, given the calibre of the person, it is reasonable in the New Zealand context."
Former chief executive Christopher Luxon was paid $4.2m in the past year.
Walsh says Foran will start next February. Like Luxon when he began, he has no experience in an airline business.
"When he hits the ground in February for me, and working with the team here, it will be structuring a programme of introducing him to a range of people and getting him around the business."
She says the airline has a "fantastic" executive team.
"You're always going to have movement over time, it's never going to stay static but I'm really keen to keep the team in place."