Only a week after New Zealand announced it would start welcoming back vaccinated tourists earlier than originally planned, the country has another exciting update: In about six months, Air New Zealand will start offering nonstop flights between Auckland and New York.
Beginning September 17, the New Zealand-based airline will begin service between Auckland Airport (AKL) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). The new route will be offered three times a week on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
“The U.S. has always been a key market for us, and this new route cements our commitment to growing opportunities for tourism between the two countries,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran, in a statement released today. “In the six years leading up to Covid, the U.S. visitor numbers to New Zealand doubled so we expect our much-awaited nonstop service to be incredibly strong year-round.”
This is a pretty big deal, marking the first-ever direct flight between New Zealand and New York. Currently, New Yorkers have to make at least one layover (usually in Los Angeles or San Francisco) en route to the country, resulting in travel times clocking in well over 20 hours.
The new flights are by no means quick, mind you: The southbound route will be the fourth-longest flight in the world at 17 hours and 35 minutes, while the northbound route will take a little over 16 hours. But those times are much more doable (and more convenient) than the current options.
A lot of thought has been put into making the in-flight experience on these new routes as comfortable as possible. The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner offers more Premium Economy seats than other Dreamliners in the airline’s fleet (33 seats, as opposed to 21). It also features 13 Economy Skycouch seats, which are private Economy seats that convert into a couch after takeoff.
As for amenities, Air New Zealand is placing a particular focus on sleep—something you’ll definitely need on a flight this long. Premium customers will get sleepy teas and noise-reducing headphones (plus other complimentary meals and drinks), as well as guided meditations on the in-flight entertainment system.
Before descent into Auckland, passengers will also be served brunch with flat white coffee (a Kiwi staple).
In addition to the new JFK route, Air New Zealand will be restarting nonstop flights from several other U.S. airports within the next few months. On April 14, the airline will resume service from San Francisco (SFO) three times a week. Flights from Honolulu (HNL) and Houston (IAH) will resume on July 7, also three times a week. And while flights from Los Angeles have been operating throughout the pandemic for cargo and repatriating Kiwis, the airport is scheduled to resume its daily tourist flights by the time borders reopen.
All Air New Zealand flights land in Auckland, but travelers can easily hop to different parts of the country using the airline.
“We know almost three quarters of visitors from the U.S. travel beyond New Zealand’s main tourist centers, so once customers arrive in Auckland, we have connections to 20 different regions around the country, all within two hours,” said Foran. “Visitors will not run out of places to see.”
Tickets are now on sale at airnewzealand.co.nz.