Air New Zealand has launched a fresh offensive into the Australian market, this time chasing long haul travellers to North and South America.

In Sydney today, the airline unveiled a big push into Qantas' and Virgin Australia's home patch, looking to take passengers off those and other airlines and fly them across the Pacific via Auckland.

"This is a huge opportunity because we know we can rip very easily into Australia," Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon says.

It is setting up a sales network throughout states in Australia and is launching a multi-million dollar advertising and marketing campaign, taking television spots for the first time across the Tasman.


The star of the campaign is goose called Dave, a CGI creation in digital the TV ads that will run throughout Australia from Sunday promoting Air New Zealand's long haul network and range of products.

Dave, voiced by Australian actor Bryan Brown, finds flying on a plane across the Pacific "a better way to fly" than birds' customary means of migration.

The initial 90 second TV ad also references transtasman rugby rivalry, accents and pavlova and Brown's role in the movie Cocktail.

Today's announcement is another crack at a market with five times the population of New Zealand but one that has proved challenging.

Air New Zealand's most notorious foray into Australia ended disastrously with the Ansett collapse in 2001 and untidily with its exit from most of its Virgin Australia stake this year.

Today's announcement involves a fraction of the financial risk and is a reminder of how important the potential of the Australian market is to the New Zealand airline.

It has in the past year already been making headway in the long haul market in Australia. On its Auckland-Houston route Australians make up about 20 per cent of passengers and up to 40 per cent on its Buenos Aires flights.

More than one million Australians fly to the US every year and while there has been a surge in the number of flights in the past two years, including more direct flights, Air New Zealand believes there is further growth potential for its services in spite of them requiring a stopover in Auckland.

They know us as a quirky fun airline that flies across the Tasman but only four out of 10 know that we fly beyond New Zealand.

Research done in advance of the marketing campaign had found indirect flights were not a deterrent for many travellers, particularly those who now have to transit from a domestic flight from Queensland, Victoria, south or west Australia through Sydney and then on to the Americas.

The airline believes those outside Sydney would be happy starting their international journey in their home state with Air New Zealand, stopping in this country and then flying across the Pacific.

Air New Zealand's sales strategy will treat the Australian states as separate markets.

Luxon says there is poor awareness in Australia of Air New Zealand's long haul network, its aircraft and the range of premium products it has on board.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"They know us as a quirky fun airline that flies across the Tasman but only four out of 10 know that we fly beyond New Zealand."

Research found that just two out 10 Australian travellers would consider Air New Zealand to fly out of this country.

"We know Australians think highly of us - they just don't know us and we've just got to educate them. If we do it well we should be able to rip into alot of those carriers going into Australia and bring that traffic out through New Zealand."

Virgin Australia, which flies directly from Melbourne and Brisbane to the United States, will be in Air New Zealand's sights but Luxon says taking on rivals is not the his airline's main aim.

"Our primary motivation is realising we have an opportunity - we think we're the best airline in Australasia and have a kick-ass product," he says.

We've got really good brand health and reputation in Australia and I don't think there's any legacy of Ansett sitting there among the population.

"Some of our competitors there are often routed in Sydney but there are real opportunities in South Australia, Queensland and Melbourne to take customers."

Fifteen years ago Air New Zealand was the target of outrage in Australia after the collapse of Ansett, an iconic carrier the New Zealand airline had bought but had been unable to stop sliding into failure.

Luxon believes the legacy of the Ansett collapse wasn't hurting Air New Zealand.

'I think everyone has moved on very clearly so I don't think there's any residual impact around Air New Zealand," he says.

"We've got really good brand health and reputation in Australia and I don't think there's any legacy of Ansett sitting there among the population."

Australia's Corporate Reputation Index compiled each year by Australian research consultancy AMR put Air New Zealand in sixth place this year behind JB Hi-Fi, Toyota, Samsung, Qantas and Mazda.

An Air New Zealand Airbus A320 aircraft.
An Air New Zealand Airbus A320 aircraft.

Luxon said that during the last four years, Air New Zealand's network had grown by about 30 per cent and been able to build daily services to nearly all its gateways across the Pacific Rim region.

'We're now flying daily services to everywhere and we've got an ambition to build Buenos Aires into daily," he says.

Auckland Airport would act as a growing hub for Australian traffic and there was potential for the city to become an even bigger hub for flights from Asia to South America.

"Now we're at that scale from point to point we can now start to act as a hub carrier - linking growing parts of the world to each other," Luxon says.

Auckland Airport is expanding its passenger areas to meet rapid passenger growth from not only Air New Zealand but a wave of new carriers from the United States, China and Qatar in the Middle East. Emirates was also increasing its capacity.

Luxon said there would be added pressure on airport facilities during the coming summer high season and more passengers would be ferried to terminals by bus rather than using air bridges.