As a sign of hope for the future, American Airlines has once more scheduled flights to New Zealand. Starting in December this year, the carrier will recommence services to Auckland and launch an entirely new route to Christchurch. The service will give American exclusivity on nonstop flights between the US and New Zealand’s South Island. However, the flights are dependent on New Zealand opening its borders, for which there is currently no roadmap.
Linking US and South Island nonstop
Providing travel restrictions permit, American Airlines will resume flights to New Zealand from the end of the year. The new route from LAX to Christchurch (CHC) was originally intended to launch in October 2020. However, the date was pushed back indefinitely for obvious reasons.
It is now scheduled to commence on January 5th, operating three times per week. Christchurch Airport is very enthusiastic about its upcoming new arrival, and tickets have already gone on sale.
🇳🇿✈🇺🇸 From the South Island to the States… @AmericanAir are preparing for direct flights between Christchurch and LAX from January if international borders are open. We can’t wait to welcome them to CHC! 🙌🎉Tickets are now available to purchase: https://t.co/nSHDNQVuU7 pic.twitter.com/GjCe0pH9W4
— Christchurch Airport (@CHC_Airport) May 20, 2021
However, before the LAX to CHC route is inaugurated, flights will recommence with daily flights between LAX and Auckland (AKL) on the North Island on December 16th. The route from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to AKL is scheduled from January 4th, 2022, also with a daily service.
Daily 787 services
All of American Airlines’ US to New Zealand routes will be operated by the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The world’s largest airline currently has 24 of the 787-8s and 22 of the 787-9s in its fleet, with an order for a total of 79. It still has to take 13 of the smaller 787-8s and 30 of the 787-9s. Their delivery schedule, along with the overall order book, has been reshuffled due to the pandemic and recovery projections.
Joint venture with Qantas driving prices down
American’s New Zealand expansion is anchored in the airline’s partnership with fellow oneworld alliance member Qantas. Approved in July 2019, the agreement with the Australian flag carrier allows both airlines to cooperate and coordinate fares and schedules between the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
Routesonline reports that before the pandemic, the airlines estimated that the joint venture would generate $310 million in annual consumer benefits, the majority from codeshare availability, and the rest from an 8% reduction in price per interline ticket.
Hanging on the lifting of restrictions
Hoping to pick back up from where the expansion was cut short, American’s plans remain contingent on New Zealand, with some of the harshest travel restrictions in the world, deciding to reopen to international travelers.
For most of the past year, with a few exceptions for partners, dependents, and critical workers, only New Zealand citizens have been allowed to enter the country. Upon arrival, they have to go through ‘managed isolations’ for 14 days, meaning quarantine in a government-designated hotel.
When a quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble opened last month, it was the first, tentative step to relinquishing the iron grip on arrivals which has seen the country of close to five million people report in total 2.662 cases of COVID-19 and 24 COVID-related deaths.
It remains to be seen how much of the world’s population will need to be vaccinated before it decides to open its airports back to fully packed widebodies. And how much New Zealand will place its trust in the vaccines, as one of its fully-vaccinated border workers recently contracted the disease. Currently, the country’s PM has said there is no immediate roadmap for reopening.