Air New Zealand is to axe its daily London to Los Angeles flights after 37 years to launch an Auckland to New York service instead.
It will pull off the route in October 2020, leading to the loss of 130 cabin crew jobs and around 25 jobs in its London office.
Acting CEO Jeff McDowall said the airline was ditching the iconic route to focus on markets with the greatest opportunity for long-term profitable growth.
“Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base in Auckland and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim,” he said.
“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service between Chicago and Auckland is exceeding expectations. New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to help make this milestone a reality,”
Air New Zealand will fly between its alliance partner United Airlines’ New York hub Newark Liberty International Airport and Auckland three times weekly, year-round, using its latest configuration Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Tickets for Air New Zealand’s New York service will go on sale soon, subject to regulatory approvals and landing slot confirmation.
London to Los Angeles has been a flagship route for Air New Zealand and an important link connecting Europe to New Zealand since its launch in 1982, admitted the airline, but McDowall said market dynamics have changed in recent years.
“The number of ways to fly between London and Auckland has more than doubled in the past decade, changing customer preferences. Less’ than 7% of’ all airline travellers between London and Auckland chose to fly via Los Angeles last year.
“At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the European and North American airlines we’re up against.”
McDowall said the hardest aspect of the decision was the impact on Air New Zealand staff who’ve worked ‘incredibly hard’ to build the route and to achieve the highest customer satisfaction levels across’ the airline’s international network.
“Sadly, the withdrawal will see the disestablishment of our London cabin crew base of around 130 people and, subject to consultation, around 25 roles in our Hammersmith sales office and ground team. We will be working with our people and their union to help with the next steps in their career, including looking at opportunities in other areas of the airline,” he said.’
Air New Zealand’s London-Los Angeles service will operate as scheduled until October 2020 and no tickets have been sold beyond this date. Air New Zealand said it has chosen to announce the withdrawal more than a year in advance to allow time to support its people and to avoid any impact to customers booked to travel.
Europe, including the UK, remains a significant sales region for Air New Zealand, it said. Currently more than two thirds of revenue generated by its London team is unrelated to the Atlantic route and the airline will retain a sales, marketing and cargo presence in London after the cessation of its London-Los Angeles service.
Air New Zealand is offering customers travelling between London and New Zealand after October 2020 connections with its airline partners via 12 gateways, including New York.
“We fully expect customers will want to take advantage of the many connection options on our partner networks through Asia and the Americas, including New York. It’s important to us~that~our customers continue to enjoy a seamless journey and we’ll be working closely with our partners to ensure the best experience and benefits for travellers,” added McDowall.