Starting on Monday, December 7th, Air New Zealand is adding more capacity on its domestic schedule for the month by upgauging existing flights. Most flights are moving from Airbus A320 services to Airbus A321neo aircraft through the end of the month.
Air New Zealand upgauges domestic flights
According to a press release from the airline, the carrier is upgauging more than 350 flights to larger aircraft during the month. The carrier attributes the decision to better than expected pre-Christmas and business travel demand.
Progressively, according to Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty, the airline will be adding around 16,000 new seats for travel in December. About 80% of Auckland to Wellington services and 25% of Auckland to Christchurch services will be operated by the Airbus A321neo jets that seat 214 passengers. The Airbus A320s, meanwhile, seat 171 passengers. The bonus part of the Airbus A321s is that they feature inflight entertainment.
Leanna Geraghty went further, stated the following:
“Demand in a post-COVID world has been far more variable than pre-COVID, with bookings often being made very late and flights selling out. We’ve been adding capacity wherever possible which makes more seats available at lower fares. In November we added more than 26,000 seats to the network for travel in the same month, either by adding new flights or deploying larger aircraft on existing routes.
Air New Zealand can’t turn to international demand
Traditionally, Air New Zealand will fly Airbus A321neo on international routes. However, given how many different countries have travel restrictions up, coupled with New Zealand’s own mandates, Kiwis have been turning to domestic travel.
As a result, Air New Zealand has been working to fill in that gap. The carrier is flying a fairly robust domestic schedule and will continue to do so through the holiday season. The current upgauge is expected to last through the end of December. However, if demand continues to exist in early 2021, the carrier could continue these schedule adjustments with upgraded capacity for the next few months.
Why not widebodies?
Some airlines around the world have turned to flying widebodies on some domestic routes with increased demand. This has happened in countries like the United States and Brazil. However, the problem with flying widebodies on shorter routes is that they are not as cost-efficient as narrowbodies. Especially considering how most of Air New Zealand’s domestic flights are a couple of hours or less in length, the cost of operating a widebody is much higher than a narrowbody.
Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777 fleet is currently grounded. The 777-200ER has been grounded for an indefinite period of time. Meanwhile, the 777-300ER fleet is all parked. Some are parked in New Zealand, while others are out in California, awaiting a time when the carrier can efficiently fly them on long-haul routes.
Plus, Air New Zealand can offer more frequencies with narrowbodies, which means more options for customers to choose when they want to travel. With widebodies, Air New Zealand would likely be flying fewer frequencies in a day on certain routes. Plus, some airports are not suited for handling widebody aircraft, which adds more logistical headaches.
Are you glad to see Air New Zealand upgauge domestic flights this month? Will you be traveling domestically on Air New Zealand? Let us know in the comments!