Today Air New Zealand marks 80 years in service. It's a huge milestone for the national fleet of wakarere, even if the current state of air travel leaves little else to celebrate.

Over the past eight decades the airline has covered a lot of ground since covering its inaugural 9-hour flight as TEAL airways between Sydney and Auckland.

Using the Short S30 flying boat it was a far slower, bumpier ride, but it was a start.

Since then it has grown its fleet to 116 aircraft and an annual of just under 16 million annual passengers.

This year it was about to push the envelope even further with the highly anticipated direct air service between New York and Auckland, due in October. However, the Covid 19 pandemic has caused the launch of this service to be delayed along with some drastic changes for air travellers everywhere.

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Air New Zealand celebrates 80: What's changed in eight-decades of Aotearoa's flag carrier? Photo / Supplied
Air New Zealand celebrates 80: What's changed in eight-decades of Aotearoa's flag carrier? Photo / Supplied

"While this birthday sees the airline operating in some of the most extraordinary circumstances in its 80-year history, the heart and passion of our people remain as strong as it was on that historic first day of operation," said the airline's chief marketing officer, Mike Tod.

However the he sees the ingrained "Kiwi can-do spirit" of the airline as a guiding principle that will in the its next, uncertain chapter.

At 80, the airline is facing an existential crisis in travel restrictions and lack of uptake for future flights.

At the beginning of the month the airline announced it was preparing to lay off 3500 employees, pilots and staff as it shrank its international services. It's a devastating reduction that represents roughly a third of operations.

However, the company insists it won't take long for new shoots to emerge as it pivots to a network of mostly domestic routes.

A TEAL air service arrives in Auckland in 1950. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library
A TEAL air service arrives in Auckland in 1950. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

While 2020 has provided little reason to celebrate, Air New Zealand's manager of global brand Jodi Williams says the airline's emblem of the unfurling fern remains a constant symbol of resilience.

"The koru is symbolic of new life and new beginnings, and now is more important than ever to be reminded of how resilient we are as a business and as a nation."

As the airline muddles through with a more local focus and Kiwis look a little closer to home for holidays it's time to explore and be curious:

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How well do you know your national airline?