Air New Zealand is enjoying its busiest week across its domestic network since March. In the run-up to Christmas, the Auckland-based airline expects to carry 170,000 passengers and operate more than 2,500 flights. The airline says Christmas Eve is shaping up to be its busiest day. It’s will prove a welcome wrap up to 2020 for Air New Zealand.
Domestic network a bright spot for Air New Zealand
COVID-19 and travel restrictions battered Air New Zealand’s international operations this year. However, the airline has maintained a slimmed-down international schedule around the Pacific rim and done decent business flying freight.
After a couple of road bumps, Air New Zealand’s domestic network proved relatively resilient this year. This is largely due to New Zealand keeping the worse excesses of COVID-19 at bay and only temporary restrictions on internal movement within New Zealand.
Domestic travel capacity is running at roughly two-third of December 2019 levels in New Zealand. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what’s flying in many other domestic markets. Air New Zealand’s Chloe Surridge is pleased to see people on the move.
“Operationally, it takes a lot of work to get our customers to their holiday destinations on busy days like these. All of our teams, from flight planners right through to our airport teams, pilots and cabin crew, are working hard to connect customers with friends and family this festive season,” Ms Surridge said.
Air New Zealand upsizes aircraft on busiest domestic routes
Air New Zealand says the busiest domestic sector this week is between Auckland and Christchurch. On Thursday, Air New Zealand’s busiest day, Auckland will host 96 Air New Zealand domestic arrivals and 93 domestic departures. Those flights include not just Air New Zealand’s mainline trunk jet services, but Air New Zealand regional turboprop services.
Air New Zealand has previously said it would be upsizing its planes from Airbus A320s to Airbus A321s on several flights on its busiest domestic routes out of Auckland.
“We’ll be progressively adding around 16,000 new seats for travel in December. This will see around 80 % of Auckland-Wellington services and around 25 % of Auckland-Christchurch services operated by our new and larger A321 aircraft with 214 seats compared to the A320’s 171 seats”, said Air New Zealand’s Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty earlier this month.
Normally New Zealand’s second busiest airport, Christchurch, will handle 79 Air New Zealand domestic arrivals and 82 departures on Thursday. Wellington will see 84 domestic Air New Zealand domestic arrivals and 82 departures on Christmas Eve.
Extra flights extend to smaller New Zealand airports
Even far-flung Invercargill Airport will see additional Air New Zealand flights over the Christmas and New Year period. Located on the South Island tip, Invercargill is at one end of New Zealand’s longest domestic flight – the 1,600-kilometer flight down from Auckland. In 2019, Invercargill handled 321,000 passengers while Auckland dealt with over 21.5 million passengers.
Air New Zealand is adding 10 extra flights (or 1,700 seats) between Invercargill and Auckland over the Christmas and New Year period. The airline is also boosting capacity to both Wellington and Christchurch from the southern city.
After a tough year, Air New Zealand will welcome the last-minute burst of traffic on their domestic network. It’s good news for the airline, New Zealand’s tourist sector, and the broader economy.
In a nice throwback to busier times and in anticipation of possible crowds, Air New Zealand warns passengers to allow extra time at the airports for check-in and processing.