Air New Zealand has tourism growth as its Seoul objective

November 24, 2019
Air New Zealand
Photo: Steve Creedy

Air New Zealand has returned to South Korea with the aim of stimulating travel growth to support a daily service between Auckland and Seoul.

The carrier’s inaugural flight, NZ75,  touched down Saturday night after a trip of more than 11 hours with senior Air New Zealand and government officials on board.

The Kiwi airline is planning to lure more Koreans to New Zealand with the direct Boeing 787-9 flights but also hopes to expose New Zealanders to a new destination.

While Seoul is a long-time favorite of the Air NZ acting chief executive Jeff McDowall, he  conceded most New Zealanders didn’t know it well.

“So that feels like an opportunity as well, if we can bring it to life in the minds of the New Zealanders,’’ he told AirlineRatings during the flight.

“If you go back a few years and think about Tokyo as a city and Osaka and Kyoto, they weren’t visited by New Zealanders as tourism destinations either but over the past 10 or so years they’ve grown hugely as people have woken up to that.

“And you can imagine the same happening with Korea.”

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Air New Zealand has some familiarity with the South Korean market, having flown there in the 1990s but pulled out when demand fell spectacularly due to the Asian financial crisis in 1997-98.

McDowall said demand had grown significantly since then to the point that South Korea was the third biggest source of visitors after China and Japan.

But he noted capacity between New Zealand and South Korea had been flat and this meant many visitors had been coming via another gateway such as Tokyo or a point in Australia.

“By operating a direct flight, we think we’ll be able to capture a lot of the market that’s already coming to New Zealand via somewhere else and as well as that stimulate demand through a more convenient option,’’ he said.

“So it makes good sense.

“There are also about 40,000 Koreans living in New Zealand which means we’ll get a big chunk of the demand from them going to see their families and their families visiting them.”

To help  the new target market feel more at home, AirNZ has  tweaked its award-winning service to add a Korean flavor to its menu while retaining local staples such as New Zealand fine wines and produce such as lamb and cheeses.

Nor will anyone go hungry: the outbound inaugural included lunch, dinner and a light refreshment of sandwiches and tea cakes.

Korean dishes on the flight included Korean barbecue pork with spicy courgette banchan, fried rice and aromatic vegetables as well as Bulgogi beef with Korean rice.

AirNZ Korea
The Korean barbecue pork combined nicely with a crisp New Zealand pinot gris. Photo: Steve Creedy.

Korean Air also flies to New Zealand and McDowall said he expected the carrier to be competitive on the route “just as we would be with a new entrant to the market”.

“But demand looks like there’s enough space there for the two of us and we each offer a slightly different proposition,’’ he said..

“We’ll offer a New Zealand style of service which will be new and interesting to Korean visitors and we have that great domestic network which gives them easy access to the 20 ports around New Zealand we operate to together with side trips to Australia or Pacific Islands.”

Although  AirNZ expects the traffic to be primarily tourism-based, McDowall said there would also be “a big chunk of VFR” and some business travel.

He believed the biggest opportunity in terms of Australia was duel destination traffic rather than convincing Australians to hub through Auckland as AirNZ does on some other routes.

He noted Air New Zealand had across the Tasman the widest range of Australian destinations on offer.

“I think for a customer going direct to Australia, they’ll just go direct to Australia,’’ he said. “But the dual destination thing could be quite big.”

The ultimate goal would be to go daily, he added.

“We’re going to have three (services) year-round with five over the peak season during the summer… and then we’ll analyse how that demand has played out and look to grow it as much as we can,’’ he said.

The airline will initially fly from Auckland on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays adding Wednesday departures between December 25 and February 19 nad Sunday departures from December 29 to February 16.

Air New Zealand’s Seoul schedule:

Flight NumberDepartsArrivesFrequencyAircraft type










Auckland 1125


Auckland 1105



Auckland 1035


Auckland 1155

Auckland 1420

Seoul 1920


Seoul 1900



Seoul 1830


Seoul 1950


Seoul 2215




Wednesday (25 December – 19 February)





Sunday (29 December – 16 February)

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner








Seoul 2155


Seoul 2215



Seoul 2210


Seoul 2355


Auckland 1305 +1


Auckland 1325 +1



Auckland 1320 +1


Auckland 1505 +1



Wednesday (25 December – 19 February)


Thursday & Saturday


Sunday (29 December – 16 February)

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner


Steve Creedy flew to Seoul courtesy of Air New Zealand.