Air New Zealand Announces Auckland To Houston Flight

Since late last year, Air New Zealand has been hinting at starting a new route to North America. At the time, apparently Chicago, Houston, and Las Vegas were on the short list of cities to get service.

Well, the announcement is now official — Air New Zealand will be launching flights to Houston as of December 2015.

AKL-IAH

This will be Air New Zealand’s longest nonstop flight, and will be operated by a Boeing 777-200. While the exact schedule hasn’t yet been published, apparently the flight will be blocked at 13hr50min eastbound and 14hr30min westbound. It will operate up to 5x weekly initially, with hopes of eventually being a daily flight.

Air-New-Zealand-777

Via The New Zealand Herald, here’s the motivation behind launching service to the “center” of America:

Luxon said Houston offered direct access to the American South and a range of new tourism experiences including Nasa’s Johnson Space Center and Mission Control and rodeos and a jumping off point for the home of country music in Nashville, Tennessee; the jazz capital of New Orleans; and the resorts and theme parks and beaches of Florida.Houston is also a key gateway for Mexico and the rest of Central America and the Caribbean where increasing numbers of New Zealanders are taking cruises.

Access to a huge pool of potential US visitors had also driven the decision.

“It is the best gateway in terms of originating traffic to access the centre of America and the East Coast,” said Luxon.

“They’ve got big populations but they’ve got perceptions of a big distance issue.”

Research found some Americans thought it took more than 40 hours to fly here.

“What we’re trying to do is get them to think they’re not going to have to do a transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles and down to New Zealand and make it less dramatic for them by doing a one or two hour commuter flight (to Houston).

I think that logic is spot on. While Houston isn’t the most exciting destination in the world, this flight opens up a bunch of new one-stop routing options thanks to its location and the fact that it’s United’s biggest hub.

Unfortunately Air New Zealand is notoriously stingy when it comes to premium cabin award availability, so I wouldn’t expect any business class award seats on the new flight. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a business class award seat on one of their mainland North America routes, for that matter (they fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver).

Either way, it’ll be exciting to see an Air New Zealand plane make it past the west coast!

NZ-777

What do you make of Air New Zealand’s new Auckland to Houston route?

Comments

  1. Yeah, exactly what is needed. There are not many airlines operate routes between US and Oceania, so ticket price in these routes are really high.
    I wonder why Air Newzeland doesn’t use their new 787-9 to fly this route.

  2. That’s quite exciting but if United didn’t have a hub at IAH, I highly doubt Air New Zealand would have this route.
    I’ll admit, however, that I’d be more excited if it were an AKL-EWR non-stop flight. I’m not even sure if that’s possible but that would be cool to go all the way to NZ nonstop from NYC. ­čÖé

  3. This would be great for me since I go to New Zealand to visit family and live in ATL, but Air NZ’s loyalty program is pretty crappy. They have “Air Points”, whereas each point equals a NZ dollar and they’re kind of stingy with earning rates. And just like you said, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find any award space (even economy) on Air NZ through Star Alliance. I wouldn’t fly 20,000 butt-in-seat miles (on one trip!) on an airline that isn’t going to give me very much for it…but they do have amazing service, good food, comfy seats and an innovative hard product in all three of their long-haul cabins (space seat in premium economy, sky couch for economy). It’s a great airline for people who are making a one-time trip to NZ, but it’s not the best choice for people who value points and miles.

  4. @HSO

    Air NZ’s 789s are configured mainly for Asia flights which do not have as much premium demand as US/LHR flights. Consequently, the J/PY:Y ratio is off for US flights.

  5. nobody’s making you sign up NZ Airpoints

    Since they’re star alliance, feel free to bank the miles to any other program (if eligible booking class)

  6. @Joey

    EWR-AKL is 8,810 miles so theoretically is should be possible… but not sure about the winds…

  7. ANZ will connect American South and South America, with flights to EZE.
    I hoping for the 5th to happen between EZE – GRU as it happens with TK and QR.

  8. @Reine try bid for upgrades…
    @Lucky do you have any suggestion on redeeming award ticket on routes between US to Oceania, using Star Alliance miles…
    Besides United, there isn’t muck avability, transfer in Asia is way too long and probably exceed MP!…

  9. This is great for anyone not on the west coast that wants to travel to New Zealand. Opens a lot of 1 stop options from the midwest, east coast, and south.

  10. My single favorite business class in the world comes to Houston! If only there were an easy way to get up there with miles…

  11. Why is no one talking about how weird it is when everyone in Biz is facing away from the windows, into the aisle, looking right at each other, with no privacy? I’ve done it several times on the DL777s, and it’s just plain odd and awkward.

  12. @Neil S – I really don’t mind the direction issue at all, and most important about the NZ seats is that instead of reclining all the way flat into a bed (leaving a weird crease/bump in the middle) they fold forward to meet the ottoman to make an actual flat bed. By far the most comfortable bed I’ve ever flown in J (and more comfortable than most F – save for the separate beds such as SQ).

  13. @Miles Down Under

    I like your blog but it seems like you’re mostly dissatisfied no matter which airline/product you fly… ­čśë

  14. @Santastico A bigger plane? I guess you’ve never been on a 772. Cabin width is the same as 77W about the same as a 747. Larger than A333, A343.

  15. @Lantean – thanks for reading. Suggest you read our reviews of Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways, as well as JAL First Chicago to Tokyo. We are not a blog that is going to say something was great when it wasn’t, but those were all spectacular flights we’ve done this year.

  16. As a local, I’m very excited about a nonstop option to Oceania although it’s unfortunate that Air NZ award travel is nearly impossible. How expensive are upgrades via bidding?

    Regarding 40-hour travel time: it’s not THAT far off from the reality if you have stops, especially if it’s in some Middle East hub. Searching a random date for IAH-AKL brings up mostly flights 25-30 hours long except some tight connections via LAX (19 hours).

  17. @ Ivan Y — The cabins do send to sell out on their US routes, so wouldn’t count on an upgrade bid, unfortunately.

  18. @ Lucky – thanks for the heads-up! Was just wondering because it was mentioned by another commenter (Zkos).

  19. One of the things that makes since about this route is the chunk of tourism that exists for Texans going to New Zealand. A lot of New Zealand’s tourism comes from Texas. Houston is the cosmopolitan center of Texas, so it makes since to use this route. Since the amount of Kiwis in the USA is relatively small, they couldn’t occupy daily flights from New Zealand to USA, so they have to use other means of transporting people forward and back. Then as the article states, people from Houston could then transfer on throughout the rest of America (Chicago, NYC, Miami, etc.) Then there’s the factor that Houston is such a cosmopolitan city, and they have Kiwi families living in the ares. Chicago has the most Kiwis, but you can’t base this route just on that factor.

  20. @Diego,

    Numerically there may not be a lot of NZers in the US but a disproportionate number of Kiwis are in the air at any one time. Nth American airports on the west coast (LA, SF and Vancouver) are important transit points for ANZ flights to the UK. All ANZ flights on those routes (about 7 or 8 daily) are usually packed out. The Houston service adds another transit opportunity. Maybe, when Hell freezes over, the arch-protectionist FAA will grant ANZ passage through Houston to Europe! Whatsmore, ANZ is still considering Chicago. 65k packed out Soldier Field last year to watch the All Blacks play the US Eagles, and as a major sponsor of the ABs ANZ made a huge effort to attract the local market back to NZ. I think the airline was pleasantly surprised by the good reaction it got to its intensive marketing.

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