Air New Zealand is understood to be close to making a call on whether to fly non-stop between Auckland and New York, and services could start as early as next year.
The airline would likely make a decision in November on whether to start the 14,200km flight with Dreamliner aircraft already in its fleet.
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It is possible some of the next tranche of Dreamliners — 787-10s — will be configured especially for the route, a long-held ambition for the airline.
The airline would fit more premium cabin seats that would appeal to passengers prepared to pay more for extra comfort in the 17-hour-plus flights and for the convenience of flying non-stop.
Early work suggests the airline could operate the route profitably.
Prevailing tailwinds to New York make that sector technically less challenging than the return journey into headwinds.
While the distance would be at the limit of the airline's Boeing 787-9s at their present configuration, an interior revamp resulting in fewer seats overall and more premium seats could allow the aircraft to do the distance more comfortably.
The airline has been working with frequent fliers and overseas experts to develop new seats and cabin furniture that will be fitted into existing and new aircraft.
It announced in May it will buy eight 787-10 planes to replace 777-200s from 2022 and will switch out from Rolls-Royce engines, which have suffered reliability problems, to General Electric.
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As part of its fleet renewal, the airline had rights to take up to 20 Dreamliners, some of which could be 787-9 planes at a total list price of $4.2 billion, although the airline will get a substantial discount on that.
New York flights would give the airline even greater penetration into the US eastern seaboard. Late last year it began flying non-stop to Chicago three times a week and will increase this to five times a week from November to meet strong demand.
House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said New York flights would be popular with Kiwis now getting used to the prospect of 18-hour flights and keen to explore more of the eastern United States.
''People may have done the West Coast and now they're looking for something different.''
The airline will be looking to the experience of other airlines flying ultra-long-haul with new-generation aircraft.
Singapore Airlines has done away with economy seats completely on the plane it flies on the high-yielding Singapore-New York service, for now the world's longest at 16,700km. It has 161 business class and premium economy seats on the Airbus A350-900 ULR.
This is good for airline yield but it needs to be. The cost of setting up new routes is enormous and running costs including positioning staff, back-up resources in case of disruption and the high cost of fuel make them high risk.
Aircraft have to burn vast amounts of fuel to carry it, making the economics of ultra-long-haul flying especially sensitive to big movements in oil prices.
Qantas started flying the longest Dreamliner route last March between Perth and London, a distance of 14,500km.
The airline uses a premium heavy 236-seat plane on the route and says it was profitable almost immediately and has the highest passenger satisfaction out of all its international services.
If Air New Zealand does press go on non-stop to New York it could fly under the nose of the Australian airline on the non-stop transpacific commercial flights from the Big Apple.
While Qantas will run two trial flights later this year it still has to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the airline's long-held ambition to connect Sydney and other eastern cities to New York and London.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said last month the company was still working through the economics of the commercial flights which were not a "foregone conclusion".
The Australian airline is also in the final stages of deciding whether to opt for long-range A350s or the yet-to-fly Boeing 777X but either way, take-off is not likely before 2022 and it could be further out if the airline goes for the folding-wing Boeing.
The planemaker is not only beset with fallout from the 737MAX crisis. The 777X has been delayed, mainly due to problems with new GE engines.
• Coming up tomorrow: Qantas' top Dreamliner pilot on the New York-Sydney trial