Air New Zealand’s flagship route from New York’s JFK to Auckland Airport onboard its Boeing 787-9 has come under the magnifying glass since its inaugural flight due to unexpected headwinds that have reduced passenger, baggage, and cargo loads on the service. Qantas plans to start the same service thrice weekly from June 2023.


The Air New Zealand flight is one of the longest in the world. Image: GCMaps

Qantas also plans to launch non-stop flights from Sydney to New York under its Project Sunrise initiative. The airline has already ordered Airbus A350-1000s for this and plans to launch the flights by 2025. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce aims to retain the one-stop flights via Auckland even after launching a direct Sydney – New York route. Joyce said,

”We think they could complement each other and potentially serve slightly different markets.”


Qantas has some key benefits to operating via Auckland. Photo: Airbus

Part of Project Sunrise will be the introduction of its ordered Airbus A350-1000 ultra-long-range aircraft, which is earmarked for its Sydney – New York – Sydney or Sydney – London – Sydney service. Qantas originally operated its own version of the Sydney-LAX-JFK prior to the pandemic. Those eager for a direct service will benefit from having both airlines service Auckland to New York JFK, as it will certainly bring competition to this route.

Passengers heading between North America and Australia will have the opportunity to stop over to explore New Zealand. Qantas plans to redevelop its Auckland International Lounge, with a capacity of 340 seats, an increase of 40%. Qantas boss Joyce said,

”Many US tourists visit Australia and New Zealand on the same trip, and the new routing will allow Qantas to more easily cater to this demand.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

Joyce believes operating via Auckland will be beneficial for the airline. Photo: Getty Images

Qantas’ potential

With Qantas operating via Auckland versus their historic stopover point of Los Angeles (LAX), there is the benefit of connection opportunities. Qantas has an established presence in Auckland, already operating direct services to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney on Qantas metal. In addition, services to Christchurch, Dunedin, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Queenstown, Rarotonga, Sydney, and Wellington are operated by its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar.

Air New Zealand blames miscalculations for its issues with the long AKL to JFK service, resulting in weight restrictions due to stronger than expected winds. As identified, this was most common on the southbound route (NZ1, flying JFK to AKL). Qantas could face similar challenges; however, a 9-month headstart by Air New Zealand gives Qantas the edge to watch closely.

Qantas also has the benefit of already operating its Dreamliners in a less dense configuration, so the operational load is less to begin with. Air New Zealand has already advised it plans to reduce the number of available seats on board to ensure it can manage the load restrictions without the negative publicity it has been receiving of late. Although branding this as an upgrade as the new cabins will include the hotly-anticipated Skynest product, it also comes with the benefit of lowering the load.

Air New Zealand Economy Class Skynest with people

Air New Zealand’s Economy Class Skynest offers passengers the opportunity to stretch out and get some sleep. Photo: Air New Zealand

Business Traveller and Stuff New Zealand reported aviation commentator Irene King saying that,

“The issue with New York is that the aircraft [the B787-9] is right at the upper limit of its flight envelope, so there’s less room for tradeoff. You have to take off bags and put on fuel.”

Irene also added,

“I do think they have to pick up the customer service messaging about the potential risks.”

The routing of the southbound New York JFK to Auckland flight varies slightly, but primarily heads southwest over Houston, the Gulf of Mexico, and then down over the Pacific.

Air New Zealand and Qantas are both among the top-rated airlines in the world, both offering a polished level of service, new aircraft operating, and on-order, renowned frequent flyer benefits. It will be a battle of the best on this route.

Sources: Business Traveller, Qantas


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