Air New Zealand Is Now Routing Its US Flights Via Honolulu (Because of COVID)

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Well, this is new. I’ve heard of airlines cutting routes because of COVID and I’ve heard of airlines altering their schedules because of COVID, but this is the first time that I’ve heard of an airline altering how a route is flown because it believes there’s a safer way for it to operate while the pandemic is still raging.

Air New Zealand currently operates flights from Auckland to Los Angeles and San Francisco (the latter is a cargo route) and, ordinarily, the flights are non-stop point to point. However, with California currently battling an out-of-control resurgence of the coronavirus, Air New Zealand has rethought its routing and has decided that its North American flights will now have a stopover in Honolulu before continuing on to their destination.

From Monday 11 January, the crew on all cargo flights between New Zealand and the United States will overnight in Honolulu while passenger services to/from North America will be routed via Honolulu from 2 February.

The outbound flight flights from New Zealand will make a brief stop in Honolulu to change crew before continuing on to Los Angeles or San Francisco, and the crews flying the intra-US leg of the journey will remain airside at the US airports before re-boarding the aircraft to operate the return flight to Honolulu where there will be a further crew change to operate the inbound flight back to New Zealand.

Air New Zealand has explained that Honolulu will not be a stop-off option for passengers (there are no 5th freedom flights here) but the stop-off in Hawaii will allow the airline to have its crews overnight in what it considers to be a safer location than California.

As things stand, this is the Air New Zealand schedule for its flights to/from Los Angeles…

NZ6 AKL 21:30 – 12:40 LAX
NZ5 LAX 21:00 – 07:00+2 days AKL

…and as the airline has yet to updated its schedules, we don’t yet know what the stopovers will look like and what any timing changes will look like (if there even are any timing changes).

a large airplane parked at an airport
Air New Zealand at LAX

I don’t imagine that there are very many passengers flying between New Zealand and the United States right now so this change probably won’t affect too many people, but it’s interesting to see how Air New Zealand is thinking…and I actually like it. California is very obviously a hotspot for the pandemic right now and Air New Zealand appears to have come up with a plan that allows it to keep flying routes that it clearly considers important while at the same time doing what it can to keep its crews fit and healthy.

Bottom Line

From 11 January all Air New Zealand cargo flights to/from the United States will add a brief stopover in Honolulu with the airline’s passenger flights following suit on 2 February. Air New Zealand says that it’s doing this to help keep its crews as safe as possible from the pandemic and that it will revaluate its routings on a frequent basis.


  1. United and Delta have been doing the same thing for a while between the US and China; United’s SFO flight and Delta’s SEA flight to PVG stop in ICN for a crew change.

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