Air New Zealand will fly a new configuration Dreamliner between Auckland and Houston from later this year as it targets more of the premium market.

The airline will also step up flights to Buenos Aires from November to meet strong demand. Services to the Argentine capital will increase to up to five a week during the summer peak - up from four at present and three when flights started in December 2015.

The 787-9 Dreamliner services to Houston will operate up to seven times a week during the peak season.

Increasing demand for premium travel means the three Dreamliners scheduled for delivery from October this year will come with a fresh new cabin configuration that will increase the number of business premier seats from 18 to 27 and premium economy seats from 21 to 33.


Air New Zealand uses a Boeing 777-200 on the near 12,000km Houston flight which takes about 13hours 50 minutes, depending on the winds.

The airline's chief executive, Christopher Luxon, said there would be more flights to Osaka in Japan this year. He said with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics in Japan that country was of growing interest to Air New Zealand.

He said at the Trenz tourism showcase in Auckland that flying between New Zealand and Australia would also increase by 3 per cent this year.

The airline had grown its capacity by about 35 per cent within the past five years and was looking to build on this despite an influx of competition into the New Zealand market.

''We are very exercised around more growth and we want to go to places where we can find more premium customers," he said.

New generation long-range aircraft and different travel patterns had changed where New Zealand fitted in to the global market.

''We are looking at the unique geography that New Zealand has and the unique aircraft technology we have today and that is increasingly coming to propel ourselves more into the midwest and east of North America and into the east coast of South America," he said.

''For many years we've talked about being so disconnected from the world and being so very far away [but] we are really connected. We are bang smack in the middle of it and we have a geography that makes us closer to the Americas than a city in Australia."


There were also big opportunities in Southeast Asia and China as well. In spite of growing tourism from India, the airline was satisfied that indirect services on its alliance partners were serving that market satisfactorily at the moment.