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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.