Air New Zealand's long-haul passenger numbers rose 4.8 per cent last month, led by a rise in the number of Kiwis departing for Asia and Australia.

The airline, slated for Government selldown, said it carried 910,000 passengers in May, up 2 per cent from a year earlier.

Long-haul passengers increased to 103,000 from 98,000, while domestic traffic crept up 1.7 per cent to 807,000.

Passengers carried on the Asia, Japan and Britain routes increased by 10.8 per cent to 41,000, followed by Australia and the Pacific, which were up 5.9 per cent to 195,000.


Air New Zealand named Christopher Luxon as its new chief executive this week.

Luxon is at present the airline's general manager for international and will replace Rob Fyfe at the end of the year.

He sees profit in Kiwis heading to the United States as the airline targets a $110 million lift in earnings from its long-haul services by 2015.

In February, Air New Zealand announced it was looking to explore opportunities in South America, Asia and North America, while deepening its Chinese network.

"North America has experienced huge growth in the last 12 months, our projections see huge growth," Luxon said. "It's just how we are going to access it."

Passengers travelling to North America and Britain rose 1.1 per cent to 62,000 last month.

This week the airline began its first nonstop flight to Bali.

The seasonal service will operate two direct flights a week until October.


Shares in Air New Zealand closed down 1c yesterday at 86c.