By Will Lee
Air New Zealand Adjusts Operations Amid Gradual Border Reopening
New Zealand has gradually reopened its border to international travelers. After lifting the travel restrictions for Australian citizens three weeks ago, the nation welcomed citizens coming from almost 60 visa-waiver countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Japan. Fully vaccinated travelers need to take a Covid test before boarding the flight and upon arrival.
Auckland, New Zealand’s Airport handled 9,000 passengers with 43 international flights on the first day of the reopening of the border. The gateway to the country has enhanced its services by adding 40 staff to handle the increasing travel demand.
“It’s been a pleasure to be here, and the fact we can play a role in welcome people back to Aotearoa is fantastic.” Carrie Hurihanganui, Auckland Airport’s Chief Executive said.
The government said New Zealand is not yet quite back to normal, but the reopening of the border was another step towards it.
Greg Foran, the airline’s Chief Executive said the reopening is “a big day for us.”
According to the airline, the travel demand after easing the restrictions has exceeded expectations with many of its services filling up. Also, the airline is seeing a surge in demand for Fiji and Honolulu during the winter holidays. The flag carrier has rehired 800 staff for the travelers returning to the skies.
Recently, Air New Zealand revealed it will relocate its head office to Auckland, New Zealand’s Airport in 2024, following the government’s announcement of the reopening of the border.
The new headquarters will centralize its 5,500 employees in one location and reduce the property cost. In addition, a new engineering facility will be built this year. It will be the largest single-span timber arch aircraft hangar in the Southern Hemisphere.
“We’re confident that our long-haul operation will return so investing now in a new hangar that will be large enough to house a Boeing 787 Dreamliner and two Airbus A320s side by side in one space makes complete sense,” Foran described while introducing the new hangar.
The existing hangars were built in the 1960s and 1980s, and Air New Zealand needed a modern structure for the new fleet that takes sustainability into account.
The notable Star Alliance carrier has its sights on its route network in North America after the pandemic. Air New Zealand will resume flight operations between Auckland, New Zealand and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver, Canada. Flights to Honolulu and Houston will resume on Jul. 4 and Jul. 7 respectively.
Earlier, the carrier revealed its ambitious flagship route, three-times-a-week services between Auckland and New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport will be launched in September. The airline will operate its Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this long-haul route. The flight is expected to be over 16 hours northbound and 17 and a half hours southbound.