Air New Zealand Launching Non-Stops to Chicago!

At the beginning of February I shared the strong rumor that Air New Zealand would announce Auckland – Chicago non-stop. They’ve just done that, and alongside United has announced their San Francisco – Auckland will become year-round rather than seasonal.

The flight will launch November 30th and operate three times weekly with a Boeing 787-9. While a long route, it’s not even among the 10 longest in the world.

This will be Air New Zealand’s longest flight — 700 miles longer than Auckland – Houston, and also longer than their current Auckland – Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver flights.

And while there’s likely to be limited direct Chicago – New Zealand traffic, Air New Zealand’s current destinations in the U.S. are United Airlines hubs — as is Chicago — and this would open up more convenient connections throughout the Northeast. It would also position Air New Zealand competitively as the West Coast – New Zealand market has become saturated with new United (San Francisco, as part of a joint venture) and American (Los Angeles) service.

More service is great for those of us looking to travel on points. New Zealand non-stop is one of the tougher award routes in the world, and more capacity with demand relatively constant will hopefully – ultimately – loosen the grip on reward inventory.

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. How does help? NYC-ORD-AKL is ~100 miles longer than NYC-IAH-AKL. And ORD is significantly more likely to be impacted by weather in NZ’s high season. How many destinations does UA really serve from ORD but not IAH?

  2. Now to get a Qantas and Virgin Australia SYD/BNE-ORD flights on the books, and we may actually have some price competition for these routes…

  3. @Jon – VA would have little reason to fly to ORD. Their only US partner doesn’t count ORD as a hub.

  4. Air NZ does’t really participate in the Star Alliance unfortunately, they should really be thrown out. Unlikely to see any award seats.

  5. Gary, hearing any intelligence on whether the 3 weekly NZ departures from ORD will use Terminal 1 (like NH and I think LH) or Terminal 5? For J passengers, Polaris lounge access would come into play???

  6. I see this as a play for the NZ market, as adding ORD makes a fairly wide variety of European cities accessible as a one-stop service within Star Alliance.

    Munich, Vienna, Warsaw, Amsterdam, Paris, etc…all just one-stop now from AKL where in the past, many of these weren’t possible without routing through LAX (a horrible place to interline) or having multiple stops.

  7. @ mallthus … Europe is already available on *A with 1 stop via SIN.

    AKL-CDG via ORD is 12,337 miles
    AKL-CDG via SIN is 11,892 miles

    This is clearly aimed at the North American market, I’m just not sure what a 3x weekly to Chicago does for them unless there’s a lot of O/D … which there probably is I guess … they clearly have the #’s on in terms of how much ex-ORD feed they’re getting from UA to IAH and LAX/SFO.

  8. Hi Gary—Thanks for sharing this news. A couple of thoughts:

    1) I partially disagree with your statement about increased competition on US/NZ routes since for now UA and AA are only seasonal leaving Air NZ with a monopoly on nonstop service for half the year. I guess the new year around UA service that will eventually launch next year will help a bit but Air NZ has monopoly power for half the year currently.

    2) So J from AKL to SFO or LAX is 62.5k when booking using Virgin Atlantic miles. Any word on whether it’ll also be the same for the ORD flight? As has been stated by you and other commenters, I’ve also found J award availability is tight and economy nearly non existent but I managed to book a J seat a couple weeks ago on short notice and I’m flying this weekend LAX to AKL. Excited to try Air NZ long haul for the first time.

  9. @Mark – Along with the Chicago announcement UA announced they were making SFO-AKL year-round. If the AA QF JV is approved I’d expect LAX-AKL to go year-round.

  10. @Gary.

    Yes, I mentioned that in my comment but that is not until April 2019 which means until seasonal UA and AA service resumes in November for the next 7 months there is no competition on NZ/US routes.

    So I completely agree that in 2019 Air New Zealand will face increased competition on NZ/US routes that simply isn’t the case for the next seven months.

  11. The Air NZ product is excellent, and they are an innovation leader in their skycouch, premium economy, and promoting local NZ food, wine and amenities. Business class lie flats are good (they’ve had them for ages), comfy, nice large TV screens. For many years their product was far superior to US carriers. Their LAX lounge is one of the better, with excellent food, an outdoor balcony and a good shower service too. I have used points on their flights before, when I could not get options from partners in Oneworld, but seasonality is a factor. Recently I saw United offering ANZ operated when looking at a point upgrade with paid economy on United. The choice of an ORD to AKL is interesting, but on more than a few occasions I have used them to get to Australia, and considering the difference in cost vs AA or Qantas, if you are paying $ for business class it’s been worth the short stop in AKL. It was really great when you could use points on the next segment to Brisbane or Sydney on Emirates, which is not an option now with Emirates changing to directs and no stop overs.

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