BY JAMES WILKINSON
Air New Zealand has significantly upgraded services on nonstop Auckland-Perth flights to Boeing 777-200ER aircraft that feature an extra 70 seats along with the introduction of premium economy for the first time.
The Boeing 777-200ER aircraft are equipped with seat back entertainment and lie-flat business class seats – alongside premium economy – and according to Air New Zealand’s Group General Manager of Australasia, Bruce Parton, the planes will suit the route well due to the high number of leisure travellers on Perth-Auckland sectors.
According to Air New Zealand, over 80% of the 30,000 passengers the airline carried from Perth to Auckland last year were visiting for leisure.
“Western Australia is the fastest-growing economy in Australia and we’ve seen double-digit growth in visitor arrivals from Perth over the past year, with particularly strong growth over the past quarter,” he said.
“This has prompted us, in conjunction with our alliance partner Virgin Australia, to review our schedule and capacity to better match that strong demand from travellers on both sides of the Tasman.
“We’re confident the 777 will be a very popular choice for this route and that bookings will continue to grow as a result.”
Bookings on the flights are expected to be boosted by the airline’s partnership with Virgin Australia, which includes codesharing.
Virgin Australia Group Executive of Alliances Network and Yield, Merren McArthur, said the upgauge in aircraft “supported the airline’s strategy of enhancing services to important corporate and leisure destinations”.
“As part of the repositioning of Virgin Australia, one of our key focuses has been ensuring that the growing Perth market is adequately served with appropriate capacity and a first-rate product for business travellers,” she said.
“Together with our new Airbus A330 aircraft, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand guests will now have the option of lie-flat beds from Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland into Perth, accompanied by premium Business Class service.”
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have increased flights between Australia and Queenstown for the peak winter period.
The airlines have increased seat numbers by 26%, which equates to 13% more seats between Melbourne and Queenstown, 10% more between Sydney and Queenstown and 3% more on Brisbane-Queenstown flights.
Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia’s increase means the airline will operate 18 return trips per week, or 243 combined for the ski season.
“Air New Zealand introduced year-round trans-Tasman flights between Sydney and Queenstown in 1998 and to see everyone’s marketing efforts in Australia continuing to build interest in the Southern Lakes district is tremendous,” said Air New Zealand General Manager Australia, Cam Wallace.
“We know that the majority of Australians who are actively considering visiting New Zealand are interested in skiing – so our activities this season will be very much focused on converting these into ski-bums on seats,” he says.
More domestic flights are also being added by Air New Zealand, with a 68% increase in Wellington-Queenstown seats (300 more per week) and an 18% increase on Auckland-Queenstown seat capacity (an additional 650 each way).
The additional flights to Queenstown and the upgauging of aircraft on the Perth routes are on the back of new direct Auckland-Sunshine Coast services which will operate from July 1 to September 18.