Air New Zealand has been scoping a range of new long-haul destinations.

Chief executive Christopher Luxon says two United States and Brazilian routes have been on the radar.

''Destinations like New York, Chicago, Rio (de Janeiro), Sao Paulo — those are all within our frame,'' he told the Herald following the airline's sustainability day.

''With new technology coming we think we'll have better aircraft that can fly to those destinations.''


Some of them were achievable with aircraft already in the fleet but others would need new ultra-long range planes such the new Boeing 777X and Airbus A350 long-range variant. This would mean non-stop flying to New York or Sao Paulo would be more likely next decade if those routes were chosen, making Chicago a more likely destination sooner.

Asked about the likelihood of Chicago, Luxon said: ''I think you're getting pretty warm. "We're interested in getting our customers much more to the eastern seaboard of America.''

He was speaking before engine problems which have forced Rolls-Royce to accelerate its maintenance programme to replace turbine blades on some Dreamliners but these are expected to be resolved next year. Air New Zealand's latest deliveries are not affected by the issue.

Luxon said there were also more opportunities closer to home in the Pacific Rim. The airline's network was 35 per cent bigger than what it was five years ago and it was expanding its services to popular leisure destinations including Bali, Hawaii and Vietnam.

Travel overseas by New Zealanders was running at record levels, increasing 11 per cent in the past year.

Air fares in relative terms were as low as they had been, especially when compared to other consumer goods.

''I think we've got a fairly good environment right now and good deals.''

He said some rival airlines' fares were not sustainable in the long term and offered extremely cheap deal to fill up planes to recover fixed costs.


While oil prices had risen during the past year, he didn't think they would balloon to highs beyond US$100 ($140) a barrel.

Read more: Air NZ shopping for long-range planes

''We monitor that dynamically and all airlines build that into their pricing. It's probably about a quarter of the total cost that most airlines have to deal with so it's an important piece it's not like a service station with a straight pass through.''

Biofuel was still some way off.

''It's a real challenge I've gone back and looked at all the biofuel projects since 2008 and none of them have commercialised or scaled in a way that has brought them to market,'' he said.

''So it is a real solution for us solving our carbon problem but it's going to kick in another decade from now. That's why we've got to focus on offsetting.''

More was been done to encourage passengers to offset their carbon footprint.

''People talk a good game some times but they don't follow through with their wallet and pay for their offsetting behaviour. What we've done recently is make it much clearer about what we want them to offset and get them to do it before they pay for their ticket and as a result we've had a much bigger uptake.''