Air New Zealand has reiterated that it is up for the challenge of increased competition, both domestically and internationally. Speaking at the New Zealand Aviation & Corporate Travel Summit at The Langham in Auckland in October the airline’s chief sales and commercial officer, Cam Wallace, pointed out that some of the competition actually came ‘later than expected’.
He says there are many reasons to be positive about flying to, from and within New Zealand and these have prompted the competitive situation. ‘New Zealand’s tourism proposition is strong and enduring and there is a structural change in demand as more and more people get healthier and live longer. The reduction in fuel price means New Zealand is effectively closer to the world and our (Air New Zealand’s) own financial performance has acted as a lightning rod.’
Continuing low fuel costs are both good and bad news for airlines, according to Peter Harbison, executive chairman of CAPA – Centre for Aviation. Speaking at the New Zealand Aviation & Corporate Travel Summit in Auckland, Harbison pointed out airlines have been under pressure in recent times to really tighten up their operations and get back to profitability.
‘To do that, airlines need their employees believing they need to cut costs. It is hard to do that when you are announcing big profit.’ Harbison says the problem for airlines is that there is ‘always bad news just around the corner’ – be it terrorism, volcanoes, a health epidemic or the economy in general. ‘We are in this bubble of low fuel prices, but airlines have still got to get their costs down.’ He says fuel, which can amount to 40 to 50% of a carrier’s total costs, obviously has a huge influence on current operations. ‘There is a lot of old capacity staying in the air that otherwise might not have and there are plenty of new routes being opened up.’
As inflight wifi becomes more prevalent, travel agents and their clients are being warned that extra care should be taken when going online in the air.
October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and international company NordVPN has released a document outlining issues with inflight internet.
‘The dangers of public wifi are already well known but the security issues of inflight internet connection are still somewhat obscure. In 2015, there were already 52 airlines worldwide offering in-flight internet,’ the company says. (Air New Zealand has signalled its intention to introduce the service next year.)
It points out there is no password protection on the wifi connection so anyone can intercept all data that is being transmitted on the wireless network.
The rapidly expanding aviation world spells good times ahead for secondary airports as the globe’s megacities reach capacities, says JG Aviation Consultants owner John Grant.
Speaking at the PATA Global Insights Conference in Auckland on Friday, Grant says IATA statistics show there are 3.6 billion passengers each year or 9.9 million a day. ‘It took more than 80 years to get to the point we are at now but in just 15 years we will double that,’ he says. ‘And this industry hasn’t made an accurate forecast since it started – we’ve always undershot our estimations.’
Grant says there are 55 megacity airports around the world – Sydney and Melbourne are among them and Auckland ‘just sneaks in. But many of these megacities, geared for ultra long haul, wide-body aircraft, are reaching their physical limitations such as London and New York.’
Singapore Airlines’ Capital Express service, linking Wellington for the first time with Singapore via Canberra, is being heralded a game changer.
The inaugural flight arrived at Wellington Airport on Wednesday to a celebration and much fanfare, attended by officials, industry representatives and excited passengers. The flight was ushered in with a water cannon salute and powhiri. Singapore Airlines executive vice president commercial Mak Swee Wah, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Wellington Airport CEO Steve Sanderson then made speeches before a cake-cutting ceremony.
Singapore Airlines general manager New Zealand Simon Turcotte, who has driven the project, was at the celebration, and admits pride at having helped bring the service to the capital. ‘Not many get to do this – I feel very privileged.’
Emirates A380s will fly between New Zealand and Dubai five times daily from 30 October with the introduction of the airline’s double-decker flagship aircraft on Christchurch services.
Emirates will be the first airline to offer regular scheduled A380 services to and from Christchurch with the upgrade of the current daily Christchurch service from Boeing 777-300ERs, along with the removal of the en-route stop in Bangkok which will enable passengers to travel all the way between Christchurch and Dubai, with just one stop in Sydney.
The launch of the Christchurch A380 flights will coincide with the introduction of the A380 on Emirates’ daily non-stop route between Auckland and Dubai. Emirates currently also operates three other daily A380 services between Auckland and Dubai and beyond via Australia (Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane).
Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines have extended their alliance to include travel between Wellington and Singapore. From 21 September Air New Zealand will be able to codeshare on Singapore Airlines’ new Wellington-Singapore service and Singapore Airlines on Air New Zealand’s domestic network beyond Wellington.
The two carriers first launched an alliance in early 2015, which included the Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-Christchurch service and enabled Air New Zealand to resume operating the Auckland-Singapore route, delivering greater access to Singapore from New Zealand.
Air New Zealand chief strategy, networks and alliances officer Stephen Jones says the launch of our alliance with Singapore Airlines delivered capacity growth of 15% in its first year helping to not only grow visitor arrivals benefiting our tourism industry but also provide convenient travel options to Singapore and beyond.
Singapore Airlines general manager, New Zealand, Simon Turcotte says the extension of the alliance agreement to include the new service will deliver a greater choice to customers looking to travel to and from New Zealand.
The new Wellington-Singapore service will operate four times a week departing Wellington at 20:15 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sundays, arriving in Singapore at 05:50 the next day following a short 85 minute stop-over in Canberra.
Fares for the new service under the alliance agreement will be available on a progressive basis from 1 September in New Zealand, Singapore and Europe.
Air New Zealand is to spend more than $100 million increasing the number of premium seats on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and refurbishing its Boeing 777-300 fleet in response to customer trends.
Increasing demand for premium travel means the three Dreamliners, scheduled to be delivered from October 2017, will arrive with a fresh new cabin configuration that will increase the number of Business Premier seats from 18 to 27 and Premium Economy seats from 21 to 33.
From February 2017, all seven of the airline’s Boeing 777-300s will also progressively complete a refurbishment programme, including the installation of the Panasonic eX3 in-flight entertainment system customers already enjoy on the Dreamliner fleet, and refreshed seating options.
Each of the 777-300s’ interiors will be refurbished. The refurbished aircraft will feature refreshed Business Premier and Economy seats as well as Air New Zealand’s luxury leather Premium Economy seat, which debuted on the 787-9 Dreamliner in July 2014. These will replace the Spaceseat and take the number of Premium Economy seats on this aircraft from 44 to 54. The Boeing 777-300 refurbishment programme is expected to be completed by late November 2017.
Air New Zealand’s general manager customer experience Carrie Hurihanganui says since its introduction on the Dreamliner, the new ink coloured luxury leather Premium Economy seat has become extremely popular with customers.
New Zealand remains underserved by airline capacity from around the word in spite of an influx of new services, according to Auckland Airport. At a press conference marking Sunday’s inaugural United Airlines service between Auckland and San Francisco, Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said the US market remained ‘underserved by about 30% even taking the new capacity into account’.
This follows an analysis entitled Growing Travel Markets, presented by the airport’s general manager, aeronautical commercial Norris Carter. It asserts the massive China market is underserved by 39%, Japan by 28% and South Korea by 53%. Even Australia is underserved by 32%, the report claims. ‘This is not a forecast, rather a modelled view of market possibilities which we’ve based on a mix of public and proprietary data,’ says Carter. ‘The modelling we’ve done indicates the US is a strong market for passenger growth. New Zealand is an attractive destination for US travellers. This is why we have seen United and American come on board, and we see room for further growth.’
Dave Hilfman, United Airlines’ senior vice president worldwide sales, has reiterated the importance the carrier places on the trade as it begins nonstop services between Auckland and San Francisco.
At today’s inaugural flight from AKL, Hilfman noted that UA still generates ‘close on 60%’ of its revenue from travel agencies. ‘It’s hard to tell where the ceiling on that is and whether technology will break through any further, but we are still very much focused on both leisure vacation agents and TMC’s (travel management companies). TMCs bring great value for us.’
UA is using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route, which operates three times a week but is set to increase to daily from 30 October. Currently, UA916 departs Auckland on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in San Francisco at 6.40am the same days. The return flight, UA917, departs San Francisco at 10.45pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Auckland at 6.55am two days later (all times local).
Cathay Pacific's new A350 aircraft will start flying on the Auckland-Hong Kong route from October 31 2016. The A350-900XWB will service the daily CX198 flight departing at 2:30 pm between 31 October - 1 December 2016 and then the daily CX118 flight, departing at 9 am between 2 December – 1 March 2017.
Cathay Pacific’s specified model of the extra wide aircraft has new Business Class lie flat beds that are now three inches longer than current seats. Both the business and premium economy class seats were designed by Studio F.A.O Porsche for optimal comfort. In economy class, a seat configuration of 3-3-3 provides passengers with more space. In both economy and premium economy a dedicated mobile/tablet dock designed at eye level makes it easy to enjoy entertainment from a passenger’s own device.
Malaysia Airlines new retrofitted lie flat business class seats are now available on its daily services between Auckland and Kuala Lumpur. Each of the 27 seats transform into a 76-inch fully lie flat bed at the push of a button. There are three seat configurations, across six rows, within the new layout (1-2-2 or 1-2-1). All seats on the left side of the cabin are single, the middle row are two – with each direct aisle access and the right side alternate between one or two seats.
Agents on the recent Malaysia Airlines famil to Kuala Lumpur test drove the new seats and had no complaints. The consensus was there was enough privacy between the seats if you wanted to switch off; the seats reclined seamlessly and they liked the three discreet lights so no other passengers need be disturbed. A good selection of beverages was offered and everyone said the satay starters were the best.