Air New Zealand’s CEO Trash Talks Americans and Australians

Air New Zealand’s CEO Christopher Luxon trash talked Americans and Aussies at the carrier’s annual meeting, as reported in Airline Weekly.

The Star Alliance member airline faces a challenge selling flights to Americans, he says, because we all think New Zealand is 40 hours away by air. According to Luxon “geography’s not the strong suit for the average American.”

He isn’t wrong, although I don’t think the median American is the target market for discretionary New Zealand travel.

How’s Your Geography?

Meanwhile their long haul planes are infested with Aussies. He notes that Air New Zealand’s “first sale of our Chicago flight” which launches with three times weekly Boeing 787-9 service November 30 “was not to a New Zealander.” Instead “[i]t was from someone in Sydney.”

And so sadly, you will have to put up with 30% to 40% of Australians being onboard our planes as we go to Houston and Chicago and to Buenos Aires.

Air New Zealand in Sydney

Their CEO’s humor aside they’ll need to rely on more than outbound traffic from Auckland and Christchurch to make their long haul flights work. Fortunately New Zealand is beautiful and well worth a visit, and not inconvenient for connecting to and from Australia if they’d ever make premium cabin award seats available.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Having been to both New Zealand and Australia, I have experienced this good-natured “trash talking” between citizens of both countries. It always seemed friendly, not hostile.

  2. I stopped flying Air New Zealand years ago for revenue
    As I don’t support airlines that never/rarely ever make premium cabin space for redemption
    Even tight fisted Qantas occasionally coughs up some seats so I buy and redeem
    Loyalty has never been a one way street and Air NZ doesn’t get it
    I like the airline even though their club lounges leave much to be desired but fly Qantas or in the past Emirates or American
    Step up your game Air NZ!!

  3. As a points enthusiast, New Zealand is approximately 40 hours away from the US, if one wishes to travel in a premium cabin. I will be traveling from AKL to the US this November on Cathay’s First & Business. I’d respectfully disagree with the CEO, Americans recognize the better redemption value.

  4. It’s probably just good-natured ribbing. So in the spirit of harmless ribbing I would just add more of us will know where New Zealand is when anyone we know utters a sentence like…I need to go to New Zealand for an important business meeting…or, in other words, probably never.

  5. Just because someone is departing from SYD doesn’t mean that person is an Australian. The world is very small these days, and the CEO’s humor is a bit in poor taste.

  6. Not a fan of the Star Alliance price-fixing down to NZ of course that pales against the prices of everything once you arrive.

  7. Agree. Americans are awful with geography. Myself included, I travel a lot, love it and want to go everywhere so I’m getting better but, yeah. Lived in Singapore for a year, Japanese friend asked me to point out Japan, on the map, I pointed to China.
    Yeah, I’m an idiot but no worse than my fellow countrymen. Lol

  8. @dwondermeant – you might not be able to get up front because the cabins always sell out…. but you could always buy your space and then always guarantee and get what you want. An airline isn’t there so you can fly for free…. if other airlines aren’t able to sell there products maybe they have an inferior products and are always trying fill it through free upgrades. Not the case for air Nz….

  9. 787-9 airplanes shows Air NZ had some foresight and may attract quite a few new customers. As for the geography, we are use to flying over the north pole to get to the other side of the world, so flying south, as pictured, is confusing.

  10. Americans are bad with geography. Chinese, however, are pathetic. At least that’s been my experience in China.

    But even if an American knew exactly how long the ORD-AKL flight was (maybe 17 hours?) they would think it was WAY too far to fly. In the scheme of life’s unpleasant moments, I wouldn’t put long-haul coach flying anywhere near the top of the list. It’s mostly boring. But most Americans just think it will be horrible, so they wouldn’t even consider such a long flight.

  11. Bad marketing by NZ. They sell themselves as some distant hideaway, and there’s been a lot of silly stuff recently about NZ being a bolthole for billionaires. So people get that distance thing into their minds.

  12. I fly economy to visit family in NZ every year. I fly hawaiian, the only airline serving NZ from the US without the diabolical 10 across 777.

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