More New Zealanders are set to head to the United States with 56,000 more airline seats next year and predictions fares will fall on increasingly competitive routes across the Pacific.

Air New Zealand is putting on extra services from Auckland to Los Angeles and to Vancouver next northern summer to meet growing demand and provide better connectivity from Australia and to other parts of the US.

The airline's general manager of networks, Richard Thomson, said fares would "inevitably" fall as a result of the extra flights.

"We'll compete with anybody. We've got to sell them [seats]. Where the market's growing we're not sitting on our hands. If we don't do it someone else will."


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More widebody aircraft are entering the airline's fleet and it is battling other carriers, Hawaiian Airlines in particular which already provides good connectivity to points in the US beyond Los Angeles.

Air New Zealand will introduce an additional three flights a week on its Auckland to Los Angeles route from March to October 2015, with a fourth flight a week added during the New Zealand school holiday months of July and October.

Air New Zealand will increase flights on its Auckland to Vancouver route by extending its current July to August five-weekly service to include the extra months of June and September next year, providing a total capacity increase of 10 per cent and an additional 6600 seats when compared with the same period last year.

Thomson said the extra flights were aimed primarily at outbound passengers although the number of Americans coming here had been increasing steadily.

"We've seen steady growth over the last 12 months but arguably it's been going back 18 to 24 months the currency notwithstanding."

He said the airline was "as confident as it could be" about the outlook. The falling New Zealand dollar was not seen as a deterrent for Kiwis taking North American holidays.

Flying to the mainland US via Hawaii with Hawaiian Airlines has been increasingly popular with NZ travellers and new flights from Air NZ could mean cheaper fares.
Flying to the mainland US via Hawaii with Hawaiian Airlines has been increasingly popular with NZ travellers and new flights from Air NZ could mean cheaper fares.

Travel agents say New Zealand travellers will cut back the duration of their holidays by a day or two or stay in less expensive accommodation if they are worried about the Kiwi currency going as far as it did this year, when the dollar hit 88c against the greenback.


House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas welcomed the extra Air New Zealand flights and said that while it was a case of capacity catching up to demand, he expected sharper pricing next year.

"I think in this case it's supply following demand. Obviously Air New Zealand has a monopoly on direct flights from Auckland and they believe the demand will continue and we agree.

"We think America next year will be a significant growth part of the market and it's not just to the West Coast," he said.

"What we're seeing are more and more people going to other parts whether it's to Florida to pick up a cruise on the Caribbean or the eastern seaboard."

Air New Zealand carries an estimated 60 per cent of passengers across the Pacific.

Thomson said there was fierce competition on the route.

Flight Centre general manager of product Simon McKearney said the extra capacity should translate to an increase in the number of cheaper fares available.

"We anticipate the pricing to be consistent with current market conditions, and the increased capacity cements Air New Zealand's position as the number one carrier on this route." Flying with Hawaiian and stopping in Honolulu had been particularly popular over the past 18 months.

"The difference in fare is roughly $200-$300 per person [more] to fly direct with Air New Zealand so it's dependent on the customer, what they want from their holiday and how price conscious they are," said McKearney.

Besides Hawaiian, Air Tahiti Nui and Fiji Airways fly across the Pacific, stopping over in the islands.

Air Tahiti Nui said the number of long-haul passengers from New Zealand to Los Angeles was up 156 per cent during the first seven months of this year.

Just as Air New Zealand carried Australians across the Pacific, Kiwis crossed the Tasman to pick up flights from Australia directly to a bigger range of North American destinations.

Qantas yesterday announced it would operate six direct return services between Sydney and Vancouver in January to cater for demand during the peak of the winter holiday season and later this month will upgrade its Sydney to Dallas service to an Airbus A380, increasing seat capacity on the route by about 10 per cent.

Virgin Australia, Delta and United also fly directly from Australia to the US and attract New Zealanders.