Air New Zealand withdraws from flagship London route

At least 150 jobs are under threat as Air New Zealand withdraws flights from London in 2020 due to a “change in market dynamics”.

The flagship Heathrow-Los Angeles service has been operating since 1982, providing onward an onward connection to Auckland.

But the airline blamed a decline in passengers using the route for the decision to cease daily flights from October 2020.

Air New Zealand  acting CEO Jeff McDowall said: “Sadly, the withdrawal will see the disestablishment of our London cabin crew base of around 130 people and, subject to consultation, around 25 roles in our Hammersmith sales office and ground team.

“We will be working with our people and their union to help with the next steps in their career, including looking at opportunities in other areas of the airline.”

More than two thirds of revenue generated by the airline’s London team is unrelated to the Atlantic route.

A sales, marketing and cargo presence will be retained in London.

The London-Los Angeles service will operate as scheduled until October next year and no tickets have been sold beyond that date.

The carrier said it had chosen to announce the withdrawal more than a year in advance  “to allow time to support its people and to avoid any impact to customers booked to travel”.

Instead Air New Zealand plans a New York-Auckland route three times a week from next autumn using new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft in a 275-seat configuration.

With a flight time of 15 hours 40 minutes northbound and 17 hours 40 minutes southbound, the 14,178 kilometre route will be its longest and the fifth longest in the world.

The airline will fly from its alliance partner United Airlines’ Newark Liberty International airport hub.

McDowall added: “The number of ways to fly between London and Auckland has more than doubled in the past decade, changing customer preferences.

“Less  than  seven percent of  all airline  travellers  between London and Auckland chose to fly  via  Los Angeles last year.

“At the same time, the Atlantic  has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home  market  advantages and scale of  the  European and North American airlines we’re up against.”

Customers wanting to travel from London to New Zealand will continue to have a variety of options with Air New Zealand and its airline partners offering more ways to New Zealand via 12 gateways, including New York.

“We fully expect customers will want to take advantage of the many connection options on our partner networks through Asia and the Americas, including New York. It’s important to us that our customers continue to enjoy a seamless journey and we’ll be working closely with our partners to ensure the best experience and benefits for  travellers,”  said  McDowall.

While it is hard to bid farewell such an iconic route, the airline must remain focused on markets with the greatest opportunity for long-term profitable growth, he added.

“Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base in Auckland and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim,” said McDowall.

“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service between Chicago and Auckland is exceeding expectations. New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to help make this milestone a reality.”

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