Qantas will take on Air New Zealand and offer Australians a new route to New York City as it plots its post-pandemic recovery.
With New York still out of range for direct flights from Australia – for now – the Flying Kangaroo has opted for Auckland as its stopover to the Big Apple, ditching Los Angeles.
The first Auckland-NYC direct flight takes off on Wednesday afternoon, putting Qantas in direct competition with codesharing ally Air New Zealand.
“We’ve always called Air New Zealand our frenemy,” departing chief executive Alan Joyce told Radio NZ.
“We’re friends on a lot of things … we’re going to be big commercial competitors on this route.”
Both airlines are operating Boeing 787 Dreamliners on the route.
The flight is the fifth-longest in the world, confirming Qantas as a long-haul specialist, operating three of those routes.
The route launch also comes as Qantas steps up its trans-Tasman game dramatically, opening more routes and increasing frequency to overtake Air New Zealand on most routes.
Come October, Qantas will also run four return flights a week from Auckland to NYC compared with Air NZ’s three, outstripping the Kiwi carrier on its flagship route.
For Australians, it is offering a better transit experience than the old Los Angeles stopover, and for Kiwis, Qantas is beating Air NZ on price.
“This will be a lot smoother for passengers coming from Australia. We have 11 flights a day from Australia into Auckland. It will connect with this service,” Mr Joyce told Nine.
Australian travellers stay “airside” through the journey, with bags checked all the way through.
The trip from Auckland to New York’s JFK airport is 14,205 kilometres, and will take more than 16 hours.
After years of operations marred by pandemic restrictions, Qantas says it is at roughly 85 per cent of its pre-COVID patronage, which it hopes to emulate by March next year.
(Australian Associated Press)