Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and his counterpart at American Airlines, Doug Parker, are both heading for New Zealand today – to Wellington, to be precise. There, the alliance partners plan a “major announcement”.
What can it be? Speculation is buzzing in New Zealand, intensified by news that the country’s Transport Minister Simon Bridges will also attend.
Fairfax in New Zealand did some digging, speaking to House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas, who said rumour has it that the two Oneworld airlines could be launching a direct codeshare service from New Zealand to the US.
Not necessarily, however. Another suggestion from Thomas: Qantas and American may announce a trans-Tasman codeshare service.
Yet another possibility was suggested by Centre for Aviation analyst Blake Moore, who told Fairfax in New Zealand he expected American Airlines to announce it would fly its B787 Dreamliner on the Auckland to Los Angeles route as part of its alliance with Qantas.
The truth of the matter was finally revealed at noon today, NZ time. American Airlines will add new nonstop service between Auckland Airport (AKL) and its trans-Pacific gateway hub at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in June 2016, pending regulatory approvals. The new route will give customers of American, the largest airline in the world, direct access to New Zealand.
Currently, Air New Zealand has a monopoly on direct flights from Auckland to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The routes are lucrative. From 1 December 2015, Air New Zealand will launch three-times-a-week service from Auckland to Buenos Aires, and a couple of weeks after that, to Houston, Texas.
United Airlines will start flying three times a week from San Francisco to Auckland from 1 July 2015, using a 242-seat B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.
News of the impending announcement by Qantas and American Airlines depressed Air New Zealand’s share price, the New Zealand Herald reported this morning.
Written by Peter Needham