Air New Zealand will axe its long-standing Los Angeles-London service and start a non-stop service between Auckland and New York from October 2020.
The New York route will be Air New Zealand’s longest and the fifth-longest route by distance in the world at 14,178 kilometres.
Flight time will be about 15 hours 40 minutes northbound and 17 hours 40 minutes southbound.
The non-stop service between Australasia and New York sees the Kiwis get there ahead of the more ambitious and much-hyped Qantas project to fly from Sydney.
The airline said the moves would accelerate its ambitions for North America and comes as interest in the unique Los Angeles-London service, launched in 1982, has diminished.
The airline plans to use the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner for the New York route, which it sees as part of a focus on markets with the biggest opportunity for long-term growth.
The airline will use the 787-9 in its latest 275-seat “Code 2″ configuration to fly three times weekly to partner United Airlines’ hub at Newark Liberty International Airport. Tickets are due to go on sale soon.
The code 2 787 has more premium seating with 27 Business Premier seats and 33 seats in premium economy.
“Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim,’’ said Air New Zealand acting chief executive Jeff McDowall.
“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service to Chicago 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 make this milestone a reality.”
McDowall said market dynamics had affected the flagship Los Angeles-London route, which had been an important link between New Zealand and Europe since its launch almost four decades ago.
The decision will see the airline close its London cabin crew base of around 130 people and affect another 25 at its Hammersmith sales office and ground team, although it noted this was subject to consultation.
It said Europe, including the UK, remained a significant sales region for Air New Zealand with more than two-thirds of revenue generated by the London sales team unrelated to the Atlantic.
The airline would retain a sales, marketing and cargo presence in London to serve market after the Los Angeles service ended.
McDowall said AirNZ customers wanting to head to London would be able to take advantage of an array of connections.
“We fully expect customers will want to take advantage of the many connection options on our partner networks through Air New Zealand’s gateways in Asia and the Americas, including New York,” McDowall said.
“It’s important to us that customers continue to enjoy a seamless journey, and we’ll be working closely with our partners to ensure the best experience and benefits for travelers.”