Air New Zealand has launched its highly anticipated direct flights to New York City, connecting the Big Apple with Aotearoa for the first time ever non-stop and the potential for more tourists to Australasia is exponential, as James Wilkinson discovers.

Air New Zealand’s first ever direct flights to New York, which are between 16 and 17 and a half hours each way, made their long-awaited debut last weekend (Sep 17) and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner services will provide a massive boost to tourism for both Auckland and the Big Apple, as well as shave significant time off existing one-stop services.

The inaugural Auckland-New York service direct to John F. Kennedy International Airport took off on time and to much fanfare on Saturday for good reason – these services were announced pre-Pandemic and come at a time when global travel is booming.

Air New Zealand’s CEO, Greg Foran, who was on the launch flight, said the services truly were a game changer for travellers to and from Aotearoa and the East Coast of the United States.

“The new direct flight to New York has been many years in the making and it gives us something pretty unique here to get to the East Coast of the United States,” he told HM.

“The flight is worth around NZ$65 million to the New Zealand economy, it’s a great thing for the country and we are very proud to be launching this flight.”

Air New Zealand’s launch of direct flights to New York marks the seventh North American destination served directly from Aotearoa by the carrier, making flights to and from Australasia more accessible than ever before.

“As one of the world’s greatest cities, Air New Zealand is proud to add the Big Apple to its list of 29 international destinations,” Foran said.

“By adding greater access to the East Coast of the US, we’re connecting our North American customers to the possibilities of 20 destinations within New Zealand as well as the Pacific and Australia, all within easy reach. This is terrific for our customers,” he said.

To help inaugurate the new flights, Air New Zealand hosted an event for 200 dignitaries at the Edge, New York’s newest attraction and the world’s highest outdoor viewing platform.

The event included New Zealand wines and performances by top Kiwi band Six60 and Air New Zealand’s own Te Ara Nui cultural dancers, who performed an incredible Haka with lower Manhattan as a backdrop.

New Zealand’s Minister of Tourism, the Hon Stuart Nash, who also flew to New York for the launch, told the crowd the first ever direct flights would provide a massive boost for the nation.

Air New Zealand’s flagship Boeing 787-9

“It was an absolute pleasure to be on a flight where you could get on in New Zealand and get off in New York,” he said. “We flew into New York on a massive big plane carrying our New Zealand brand and I was so proud to be a Kiwi.

Nash said the new direct connection between the destinations was an absolute winner for the valuable outbound New York travelling public.

“New York, I have a message for you… New Zealand has never been closer,” he said. “We are here and New Zealand is open for business.

“There are three flights per week at the moment and it will be up to seven [soon] as New Yorkers understand the value of New Zealand… and in the middle of a New York winter, there’s nothing better than sipping on a nice Hawke’s Bay wine, sitting in the sun, chilling out and listening to Six60. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Air New Zealand’s Chair, Dame Therese Walsh, was also on the launch flight and she told HM she was incredibly proud to see the first direct service take off.

The carrier also used the new direct flight, NZ 2, to launch a new international menu showcasing the best New Zealand to one of the world’s leading gourmand nations.

Onboard, premium customers enjoyed the likes of seared salmon from Marlborough, free-range chicken from Waikato and crisp salads picked straight from orchards and fields in Gisborne, Waikato and the Manawatū.

As part of the new menu, Business Premier customers were welcomed to their dining experience with an amuse-bouche of New Zealand paua saucisson (abalone sausage) with herb cream and tomato.

On the wine front, the carrier was showcasing some of New Zealand’s best drops, including Felton Road’s 2016 Block 3 Pinot Noir from Central Otago, the Stonecraft 2018 Crofters Syrah from Hawke’s Bay and the Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyeard Chardonnay.

Impressively, Air New Zealand has now launched and re-launched six North American routes – Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Vancouver – with Chicago set to follow on October 31.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management