By NICK PERRY, Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand’s flagship airline said on Wednesday it has begun selling direct flights to and from New York, a new route that will take more than 17 hours southbound and be among the longest direct flights in world.
Air New Zealand intended to start the route from Auckland to John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. The first flights now begin in September.
For two years, the South Pacific introduced some of the world’s toughest border restrictions. But the government announced earlier this month that it would reopen to tourists from the United States and many other countries by May 1, when the pandemic curfew subsided.
Greg Foran, the airline’s chief executive, told The Associated Press that he believed inbound demand for New Zealand would initially exceed outbound demand.
“I think there are a bunch of people on the U.S. East Coast who would love the opportunity to get right here,” he said.
Front said that things like the war in Ukraine and the zero-COVID policy in China had made Europe and Asia less coveted destinations.
“You’ve been through a few tough years in the United States, and here’s a whole new destination,” he said. “You show up at JFK, you catch the plane at 9 o’clock at night, and you land at 8 o’clock in the morning in New Zealand.”
Flights on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner are scheduled to last 16 hours northbound, slightly helped by the prevailing winds, and 17 and a half hours southbound. Time differences can help make it seem more like an overnight flight – albeit a long night – coming to New Zealand.
The Mayo Clinic lists long periods of uninterrupted sitting, including on flights, as a risk factor for developing deep vein thrombosis or blood clots that normally occur in people’s legs.
Front said there was no evidence that flights of 16 or 17 hours posed any additional health risks and that passengers would be able to get up and exercise a little as needed. He said the airline was looking at many ways to improve the flying experience for passengers.
The new flights would be about 14,200 kilometers (8,800 miles) each way, and tickets start from about 2,000 New Zealand dollars ($ 1,400) round trip.
Singapore Airlines currently offers the longest scheduled direct flights, from Singapore to New York, covering about 15,300 kilometers (9,500 miles) and taking 18 hours and 40 minutes.
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