• Tom Jordan

Air New Zealand to resume some passenger flights to Asia

Air New Zealand B787-9 touches down in Auckland. Photo by Ernest Leung | AeroNewsX

For the first time since the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis in February 2020, Air New Zealand has announced it will resume passenger flights between Auckland, New Zealand and the Mainland China destination of Shanghai, as well as bring forward the resumption of flights on its Auckland to Tokyo-Narita route.

Prior to the Coronavirus crisis, Air New Zealand was operating up to seven weekly flights between Auckland and Shanghai's Pudong Airport, and up to ten weekly flights between Auckland and Tokyo's Narita Airport, one of two major airports in the Japanese capital city. Air New Zealand, like many other airlines, has been heavily hit by the COVID-19 crisis and up until recently was only operating 5% of its scheduled domestic services and no international passenger flights. However, on May 14th, New Zealand moved to Level 2 restrictions, and Air New Zealand began to ramp up its domestic schedule significantly, which was followed by further frequency resumptions on its domestic network when New Zealand was declared COVID-19-free on June 8th 2020.

Despite the success in resuming domestic flights, Air New Zealand's international network remains a shadow of its former self due to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering New Zealand from an international destination. Currently, the airline is operating a significantly limited international network serving only Australia, Los Angeles and some Pacific nations, with most of these flights being offered as cargo-only services. Welcome news, however, was announced on June 15th when Air New Zealand notified customers it would be resuming limited international passenger flights to Shanghai-Pudong and Tokyo-Narita by the end of June 2020, with both destinations being operated from its Auckland super-hub.

Air New Zealand will begin its first flights to Shanghai since February on the 22nd June when it resumes a once-weekly passenger flight from Auckland. The service will depart Auckland every Tuesday at 11 pm local time, arriving in Shanghai the following morning at 7:15 am. The flight will then remain on the ground in China for several hours before departing again for Auckland each Tuesday at 2:15 pm, arriving back on New Zealand soil each Wednesday at 5:45 am. The flights will be operated by Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

On top of this, the airline has also announced the return of Air New Zealand passenger flights to Tokyo-Narita, also on a once-weekly basis beginning on June 25th. The flights will depart Auckland International Airport each Thursday at 11:15 pm, arriving in Tokyo the following morning at 7:20 am local time. The aircraft will then remain on the ground in Tokyo until 3:30 pm each Friday before departing back to Auckland, arriving each Saturday morning in New Zealand's largest city at 5:05 am. The resumption of this route will mark the first Air New Zealand passenger flights to land on Japanese soil since services ceased temporarily on March 30th. These flights will also be operated by the airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which has become the mainstay of the international network over the recent months, with the grounding of the 777 fleet until the end of 2020.

These new service resumptions are a welcome sight for New Zealand's crippled aviation industry and come in addition to the resumption of Air New Zealand's increased domestic flying schedule. The airline is now flying to all of its pre-COVID domestic destinations and expects to be operating at 55% of its pre-coronavirus domestic flying schedule during the month of July. In addition to this, Air New Zealand also stated it would be on the lookout for further opportunities to increase its international flying but acknowledged this would take a long time.

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