Plane talkin’: How New Zealand air travel is changing forever
With new aircraft, new routes and new stopovers to consider, the options for Kiwi travellers are endless.
We take a look at what’s going on up in the air.
If you thought the idea of hurtling from Auckland to Doha in 17 or so hours was nauseating, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The next generation of passenger jets could soon see New Zealanders embarking on non-stop flights to Europe and the east coast of the US. Destinations like New York, Rome and Istanbul could theoretically become non-stop from Auckland given the expected flying range.
Airlineratings.com editor in chief Geoffrey Thomas says the Boeing 777X-9 is due in 2020 and the 777X-8 which is longer-ranged will be delivered as early as 2021.
“For New Zealanders the 777X-8 is capable of Auckland to New York and quite likely from Auckland to Frankfurt, Rome or Istanbul.”
The 777X family has been ordered by Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, and Lufthansa.
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Auckland may find itself well down the list of potential markets these carriers want to fly to, but with Thomas saying the new aircraft can fly 2000km further, carry 80 more people and burn about 15-20 per cent less fuel per passenger than current aviation darling the Dreamliner 787-9, at least we are in reach.
Qantas was late to the 787-9 party but is making up for it. It will fly the jet direct from Perth to London, something a spokesperson said was “a pipe dream a few years ago” and will assess demand on the route when picking the next destination for its Dreamliner fleet as they roll off the production line.
Forward bookings on the new route were “really strong”, said the spokesperson, despite recent pricing niggles.
MORE OF THE MIDDLE EAST
One-stop trips to Europe from New Zealand have proved a winner for Emirates (via Dubai) and Qatar Airways (via Doha) flying Airbus A380s and Boeing 777-200LRs, respectively.
Auckland International Airport’s Scott Tasker last week reported the percentage of Kiwi travellers flying to Europe via Australia and then the Middle East has collapsed from a commanding 41 per cent of the market, to just 7per cent, while those choosing a one-stop route via Dubai or Doha has swelled to 36 per cent. So, it seems many don’t mind the longer leg at all.
MORE ROUTE OPTIONS
Not only can Kiwis now fly for longer before changing planes, the number of destinations available with just one stop is also growing.
The whitewashed Greek island of Mykonos, sophisticated sojourns in Nice or Malaga, Rhineland river exploring from Dusseldorf and beach and safari holidays from Dar Es Salaam are all possible with one stop thanks to new offerings by Qatar Airways, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Perth may not be the most exotic stopover option en route to London, but with Qantas’ recent announcement of non-stop flights from the Western Australian city to London, the airline will attempt to lure Kiwis away from perennial favourites Singapore and Hong Kong, and Middle East heavy-hitter Dubai as a sunny stopover option.
This is on top of the unprecedented growth in flights to and from China, driven largely by the growth in tourist numbers from that market. Auckland International Airport has seen more than 25 new direct routes out of the city since July 2015 and predicts growth in overseas visitors to New Zealand to hit 5 million by 2020, leading to – you guessed it – more route announcements.
Airlines have caught on, with varying rates of speed, that the same passengers who demand wi-fi connectivity on the ground probably want the same in the cabin. Well, not all of us.
After much tweaking, both Air New Zealand and Qantas recently announced inflight wi-fi is currently being tested and on its way this year. Both airlines have stressed their respective delays were due to waiting for satellite tech to reach a service level that Netflix streamers and the like would be comfortable with. Pricing is yet to be announced.
Qatar Airways is going one step further and will this summer launch onboard broadband from Inmarsat, offering customers on-the-ground speeds mid-flight. But connectivity can be used to enhance traditional Inflight Entertainment (IFE). Carriers like Singapore Airlines and Qatar have launched apps that help preview create pre-selected favourites lists, and control the seat-back IFE system – all using their personal electronic devices.
New Zealand’s regions hailed the 2015 arrival of Jetstar’s smaller 50-seat Bombardier Q300s fleet in the first major shake-up of regional aviation in decades, with the Qantas-owned budget carrier providing some much-needed competition on certain routes to and from Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North.
Across 2016 Statistics New Zealand data showed a 5.4 per cent decrease in the cost of domestic air travel, which along with lower oil prices was influenced by added competition on these routes.
Although Jetstar initially considered flights to and from Hamilton, Rotorua, Tauranga and Invercargill a spokesperson for the carrier confirmed the airline is not expanding domestic operations any time soon, although the airline was happy with how the established routes were performing.
Better still, the competition has “grown the pie” according to estimates from Infometrics, as not all of Jetstar’s new passengers have come at Air New Zealand’s expense: the lower prices have put more frequent air travel in reach for a greater number of consumers.
SEAT SQUEEZE, BUT IT’S NOT ALL BAD
Low cost carriers are notorious for squeezing passengers in to every last spare inch of cabin space and are partly culpable for encouraging full service carriers to do the same.
In fact Jetstar this month announced it will cram in six more seats to a total of 189 for each of the Airbus A320s it flies the New Zealand skies with. Don’t worry, your knees won’t be any more squished than normal as seat pitches will remain the same and the cabin rejig even means more lockers for those over-stuffed cabin bags.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is also introducing new seats, which will hope to encourage you to pick the oft-derided middle seat.
From next year passengers in the middle seat of the carrier’s Airbus A320 and A321neo can enjoy an extra three centimetres of wiggle room, while the aisle and window seats only get an increase of one centimetre.