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In what now seem like the carefree days before the pandemic and before yet another war took over our TV screens, Air New Zealand was set to launch one of the longest flights in the world between Auckland and New York. Then the world put up the closed sign and the plan was mothballed. Now, with New Zealand taking its first tentative steps towards reopening, the Auckland to New York route is back on the agenda and scheduled for later this year.
Air New Zealand’s Auckland – JFK route
Air New Zealand has now confirmed that its long-awaited route between Auckland and New York JFK will finally launch on 17 September 2022. As things stand, this is the proposed schedule from 19 September (there’s a separate, one-off schedule for launch day only):
NZ2 AKL 19:40 – 19:55 JFK (Mon, Thu & Sat)
NZ1 JFK 21:55 – 07:30+2 days AKL (Mon, Thu & Sat)
From 31 October (the start of the Northern Hemisphere winter season), the schedule is set to look like this:
NZ2 AKL 19:45 – 17:40 JFK (Mon, Thu & Sat)
NZ1 JFK 19:40 – 07:30+2 days AKL (Mon, Thu & Sat)
This is what the airline has had to say about its new route:
“Traditionally, flight numbers 1 and 2 are used for an airline’s flagship route. And that’s what New York will be – our flagship route. We’ve worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make this ultra-long-haul service a reality – it’s one of the longest routes in the world, at just over 16 hours northbound and 17 and a half hours southbound.”
There’s been a lot of thought put into the onboard experience and a particular focus on the sleep ritual for Premium customers, introducing relaxing balms and sleepy teas and snacks. For those needing help to unwind a little more, the airline will launch ‘Zentertainment’ on its inflight entertainment system to encourage a restful sleep. And before descent into Auckland, a brunch service including a classic Kiwi flat white coffee will be offered.
Through Air New Zealand’s strong partnership with United Airlines, domestic customers across the US can easily connect to New Zealand through New York as well as Air New Zealand’s other gateways.”
Aie New Zealand will operate its newest route using its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners which feature the following cabin options:
- Business Class – 27 seats
- Premium Economy – 33 seats
- Economy Class Skycouches – 13
- Economy Class – 202 seats
While undoubtedly more comfortable than Economy Class or even Premium Economy, the Business Class offering on the Air New Zealand 787-9 isn’t much to get excited about (you can use your mouse to enjoy a 360 view of the cabin below).
All seats have direct aisle access but the 787-9 Business Class cabin features the same layout as you’ll find on most Virgin Atlantic aircraft and that’s not a good thing. The seating can feel claustrophobic, most passengers have to sit facing each other and there is next to no storage space around the seat which means that passengers have to store most of their personal items in the overhead bins. That isn’t ideal when you’re scheduled to be in the air for up to 17.5 hours.
Fortunately, Air New Zealand is in the process of developing a new Business Class product and with this route already being billed as the airline’s flagship route, its likely that the new product (which is unlikely to be worse than this one) will be on offer to Auckland – New York passengers soon after it’s introduced into the fleet.
When it comes to the Premium Economy Cabin, things are a little better (in comparison to other similar cabins).
The cabin offers 7-across seating which means that all passengers get seats that are 19″ wide and that offer approximately 41″ of pitch (legroom). That’s not industry-leading but it’s still a good amount of space to be offered in a Premium Economy cabin.
In Economy Class, there isn’t much in the way of good news. Most seats have just 31″ of pitch and are only a little over 17″ wide and that makes them tight. Personally, I wouldn’t even fly across the Atlantic in seats this tight so the thought of spending over 18 hours in one (if you include the time waiting to take off and the time waiting to disembark) fills me with dread. If I had to fly in between Auckland and New York in Economy Class I would do everything possible to book an exit row or one of the 13 “Skycouches” that the Dreamliner offers. Failing that, I’d ignore the non-stop flight and look to break up my journey with a stop on the West Coast.
Having said all of that, it’s worth remembering that a few months before the pandemic ruined most airline plans, Air New Zealand announced that it would be reconfiguring its long-haul aircraft to fit a “stretch zone” at the front of the Economy cabin where seats would offer 35″ of legroom. These seats were set to be offered on all Air New Zealand long-haul flights “from late 2020” and while the airline’s latest press release makes no mention of these seats (so we have to assume that plan is on hold), they would make Economy Class a lot more attractive on this route if they were to be introduced.
Air New Zealand has confirmed that it will launch a 3x/week non-stop service between Auckland and New York JFK on 17 September 2022. The route will be operated by the airline’s 787-9 Dreamliners and at a little over 8,800 miles and with flight times estimated at between 16 and 17.5 hours, this will be the third-longest commercial airline route in the world.
NZ should look at the cabin of the Singapore Airlines long range A350-900 ULR for cabin ideas. I flew Singapore’s EWR-SIN on the ULR in premium economy (only biz and prem econ on the ULR). The PE seat made the 19 hours tolerable. But almost in 18 hours in NZs economy 17” seat would be unbearable. Imagine being in that 17″ seat for 18 hours, with the person in front of you reclined! That could be deadly with possibility of getting a DVT.
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