Air New Zealand is axing London flights, marking the end of its flagship international route after 36 years - with the loss of up to 130 jobs.

The airline announced today it was canning its Los Angeles-London flights from next October but it will also add a non-stop flight to New York from New Zealand.

Air New Zealand acting chief executive officer Jeff McDowall said the "iconic" London route had been "an important link" connecting New Zealand and Europe since its launch in 1982 - however market dynamics have affected performance in recent years.

Premium: Air New Zealand Big Apple plan full of ambition - London cuts a victim of competition
Premium: Air New Zealand's battle back from Dreamliner engine debacle
Premium: Air New Zealand zeroing in on non-stop flights from Auckland to New York
Air NZ flight from Auckland to San Francisco diverted to Hawaii with 'engineering issue'


"Today Kiwis have more than twice the number of ways to fly to London than a decade ago and preferences have changed.

"Less than 7 per cent of all airline travellers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year.

"At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the North American and European airlines we're up against."

Air New Zealand acting CEO Jeff McDowall discusses the changes to the network. Video / Air New Zealand

McDowall said the hardest aspect of the decision is the impact on Air New Zealand's people who've worked incredibly hard to build the route and to achieve the highest customer satisfaction levels across the airline's international network.

"Sadly, the withdrawal will see the disestablishment of our London cabin crew base of around 130 people and, subject to consultation, around 25 roles in our Hammersmith sales office and ground team.

"We will be working with our people and their union to help with the next steps in their career, including looking at opportunities in other areas of the airline."

McDowall said the route would operate as scheduled until October 2020 but no tickets have been sold beyond that date.

Air New Zealand has chosen to announce the withdrawal more than a year in advance to allow time to support its people and to avoid any impact to customers booked to travel.


According to McDowall, Europe, including the UK, remained a significant sales region for Air New Zealand.

"We fully expect customers will want to take advantage of the many connection options on our partner networks through Air New Zealand's gateways in Asia and the Americas, including New York.

"It's important to us that customers continue to enjoy a seamless journey, and we'll be working closely with our partners to ensure the best experience and benefits for travellers."

McDowell said the company was also "accelerating its ambitions" for North America and will launch a non-stop service between Auckland and New York using its 787-9 Dreamliner in October 2020.

"Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim.

"Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service to Chicago is exceeding expectations.

"New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to make this milestone a reality."