Air New Zealand's direct flights between Auckland and the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires will not resume and the national carrier says it won't launch its non-stop service to New York until late 2021 "at the earliest."

It also won't resume its Los Angeles to London route, which was to have ceased anyway from October. Some 95 per cent of Air New Zealand's international routes are currently suspended until at least June 30 and the airline is making drastic staff and other cuts as it anticipates shrinking to a domestic and international short-haul airline for the foreseeable future.

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Acting as a way-station between China and Argentina was touted as one way to incorporate New Zealand into China's global 'belt and road' strategy, but the airline will return to South America being what it referred to in 2014 as "the last major white spot" in its global network, when it first announced the service.

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A drastic deterioration in the value of the Argentinian peso in 2018 had already affected patronage on the service before the impact of covid-19, which has reduced international air travel to around 5 per cent of its previous volumes.

Former All Black captain Richie McCaw talks during the inaugural Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires in Argentina
Former All Black captain Richie McCaw talks during the inaugural Air New Zealand flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires in Argentina

"Argentina has been challenging before the pandemic and we don't expect this market to recover quickly," said the airline's chief networks, strategy and alliances officer Nick Judd.

"It's deeply disappointing to be in this position. Our people have worked tenaciously over the years to build these markets and excitement was growing for our non-stop New York flight.

"However, the effects of covid-19 continue to bite; we expect most countries to take a cautious approach to international travel in the next year and we have to be pragmatic," Judd said.

"Government travel restrictions will continue for some time and demand for our Los Angeles-London service is unlikely to recover before our planned exit in October."

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Customers booked through a travel agent or bookings website such as Webjet, Expedia, or Booking.com need to contact their agent or booking service before approaching the airline directly.

The Buenos Aires service had operated three times a week in the off-season and five times a week over the summer months.