Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZF – Photo: Kris Hull

Air New Zealand on Thursday announced a North American expansion, adding Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport as their fourth U.S. destination. Air New Zealand currently serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, in addition to Vancouver, Canada to the north.

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Service to Auckland was long-sought by Houston; Continental Airlines (prior to their merger with United) had announced service in 2010, only to cancel the service in 2012 prior to introduction.  That said, the route likely makes good sense for Air New Zealand, given their status as a member of the Star Alliance.  United’s giant presence at their Houston hub will allow for significant feed to the Air New Zealand flight, along with smooth connections for inbound travelers to the U.S. east coast and Latin America.

Air New Zealand's first Boeing 787-9 at the delivery center - Photo: Bernie Leighton

Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787-9 at the delivery center – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Air New Zealand plans to operate the route with a Boeing 777-200ER, which is somewhat surprising given that they also fly the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which would seem to be better-suited on the route given its extra range, especially on the westbound leg.  The 787 also carries more cargo.

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Image of the previously proposed new "black tail" livery. Image from Air New Zealand.

Image of the previously proposed new “black tail” livery. Image from Air New Zealand.

That said, the 777-200ER holds 10 more passengers, including eight more business class seats, which may be the tipping point on this route.  At the end of the day, it may just be an aircraft utilization decision.

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The New Sky Couch on Air New Zealand

The Skycouch product – Photo: Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand does not offer a first class product, instead opting (as many others have) to install business and premium economy.  Air New Zealand does feature the “Skycouch” product, where a section of three economy seats has fold-out leg rests to form a “bed.”

BONUS: Air New Zealand Reveals Their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Cabin and First Route

The new route is scheduled to launch in mid-December, with tickets going on sale in a few weeks. We hope to be able to check it out once they launch.

MANAGING EDITOR - DENVER, CO. Due to his family being split on opposite sides of the country, Blaine traveled frequently as a child, falling in love with the flying experience, and has continued to travel ever since. For AirlineReporter, Blaine edits all content before publishing, assists in story and concept development, and takes every chance he gets to produce original content for the site. When Blaine’s not busy planning his next travel adventure, he spends his time working as a college administrator. If he can’t be on an airplane, he’d prefer to be on a bicycle or playing with his two toddlers with his wife. Email: blaine@airlinereporter.com.

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5 Comments

Why is Houston such a “hot” city to expand route wise? EVA Air recently joined in on the Houston route. Before that it was Emirates back in December.

Blaine Nickeson

Hey Joel – EVA and Air New Zealand make sense because they are Star Alliance airlines. Houston is a major gateway to Central and South America (oil & gas!). I can’t explain Emirates – I don’t think anyone can explain their expansion plans. Two flights/day to Seattle and Boston??

Yeah, not sure why I didn’t think the expansion was possibly due to Star Alliance reasons. As for Emirates, I don’t think they’d dare to use an A380 in Boeing town even if SEA was able to handle the whale.

There are a couple of reasons Qatar and Emirates are flying to Houston – one is petrochemical and oil business. Both Houston and the UAE do a lot of business with oil so there is a lot of traffic and trade between the two. Additionally, Houston has a HUGE South Asian population so Emirates and Qatar also cater to that community

Houston and Dallas not only cater to international travelers within Texas, but those surrounding states which do not have international service. Neighboring states such as Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky do not have direct international service so you can either connect or drive to the airport for your direct international flight – and sometimes driving will costs less (even with the hotel and gas).

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