Air New Zealand
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport, Wellington Airport
- Year Founded:
- Star Alliance
- Greg Foran
- New Zealand
New York JFK Airport
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- United States
- Rick Cotton (Executive Director of Port Authority of NY and NJ)
- Passenger Count :
- 16,630,642 (2020)
- Runways :
- 4L/22R – 3,682m (12,079 ft) |4R/22L – 2,560m (8,400 ft) |13L/31R – 3,048m (10,000 ft) |13R/31L – 4,423m (14,511 ft)
- Terminal 1 |Terminal 2 |Terminal 4 |Terminal 5 |Terminal 7 |Terminal 8
After two long years of planning, Air New Zealand was excited to finally launch one of the world’s longest flights from New York to Auckland. At 17 hours and 35 minutes and spanning over 7,670 nautical miles, the flag carrier’s new route currently stands at the world’s fourth-longest. The route’s inaugural flight operated on September 17th.
Still, just a couple of weeks into the launch, Air New Zealand was harshly criticized for quite the chaotic start to the much-hyped New York-Auckland flight. The criticism came as several passengers were surprised with an array of problems, the latest being that the airline was forced to fly with fewer passengers and luggage to embrace stronger-than-calculated headwinds.
Fewer payload, more fuel
From the very beginning on the day of its inaugural flight, Air New Zealand resorted to offloading the baggage of approximately 65 passengers at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The affected passengers were rudely awakened when they landed at Auckland Airport and learned their bags weren’t on the flight. To this day, the affected passengers have claimed that several still have not received much news about their offloaded bags.
Then last week, the flag carrier also requested that at least 15 booked passengers agree to alternative paid travel arrangements, with an offer of at least $1,500 and paid hotel accommodation for voluntary offloaders. The reduced payload was much needed for Air New Zealand so that the airline could uplift more fuel. The same thing happened again this week when the airline asked for at least 20 volunteers to take the alternative travel arrangements instead, once again, to uplift more fuel for the flight.
Air New Zealand operates its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet of aircraft for the long-haul route. Photo: Getty Images
Stronger winds, longer flight times
Another near-situation happened on September 23rd, when the return flight almost made an unprecedented fuel stop in Nadi, Fiji. However, it managed to avoid it after changes were made to the route and the windy weather gradually eased. It remains uncertain if the return flight already had a reduced payload, but it was indicative that fuel remained the nagging issue.
But why would Air New Zealand require such a constant need to uplift more fuel? According to Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer David Morgan, despite the airline’s two-year-long detailed planning of the New York-Auckland route, the flight was consistently met with unforeseen factors such as significantly stronger headwinds. Morgan explained:
“We’ve actually found seasonal winds particularly in North America have been significantly higher. As a consequence, the flight has taken longer, and to provide the fuel load, we had to reduce the payload.”
And as winter in North America approaches in a few months, Air New Zealand is anticipating even stronger headwinds. To reduce the inconvenience on paid passengers, the airline is currently working on a possible solution of reducing the passenger seating cap for the route. The initial plan was that the return leg would have a passenger cap of 215, but the number has now been lowered to 180.
According to Morgan, Air New Zealand can carry a maximum of 260 passengers northward to New York and has done so without problems. Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying
Inaccurate software, unfortunate miscalculations
Then again, if the New York-Auckland route has been in the works for the past two years, how could Air New Zealand not have foreseen such wind conditions? The Star Alliance member airline is highlighting the blame on the database it currently uses, suggesting it provided faulty predictions on headwinds.
Used by the airline’s flight planning provider and even Boeing, the database runs flight plans over the last year, but the numbers have proved inaccurate. Morgan continued by explaining:
“The airline industry uses what is called the 80 percentile, while Air New Zealand struck the 98 percentile, which was quite extraordinary. Unfortunately, we know it’s not a good look, and we’re very sorry that our passengers have been disrupted, particularly with the bags.”
The windy line
Given Air New Zealand took two years to plan and eventually launch this flagship route, it does seem extremely unfortunate that neither the airline nor passengers can fully enjoy the pleasantries without being disrupted due to weather conditions. But seeing as the US has always been one of the more prominent sources of international arrivals into New Zealand, the airline will certainly make all the necessary adjustments to ensure its first and current only direct flight to the East Coast eventually becomes turbulent-free.