WELLINGTON— American Airlines will start flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and Auckland (AKL) in New Zealand in June 2016, operated by a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner — beating United Airlines’ 787-9 Dreamliner services to Auckland from San Francisco by a month.

The new route is in conjunction with Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, which operated Los Angeles – Auckland – Sydney until dropping the route in 2012, most recently with an Airbus A330-200. Until the American Airlines flights begin, Air New Zealand will retain the monopoly between Auckland and the continental US that it has held since Qantas’ departure. Next year, United will begin service between its San Francisco hub and Auckland in July, also on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.


New Zealand is in the middle of a tourist boom. Domestically, Qantas’ low-cost arm Jetstar operates a relatively small network of flights on Airbus A320 jets to the country’s main centers. Jetstar-branded turboprop flights to regional New Zealand will begin next month from Auckland to Nelson and Napier, both up-and-coming tourist regions on the international stage. Qantas’ Jetconnect subsidiary also operates Qantas-branded flights on Boeing 737-800 aircraft between New Zealand and Australia, while Qantas’ strategic partner Emirates runs Airbus A380 aircraft between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“Auckland is a thriving destination for business and leisure travelers, and it adds to the growing strength of our global network across the Pacific,” said Doug Parker, American’s chairman and CEO. “We know tourism is an important industry for New Zealand and our new service will provide greater access for more American travelers to visit and appreciate all the country has to offer.”

In the context of the fight between the three largest US airlines and the three principal Gulf carriers, it’s interesting to note that passengers will notionally be able to book a Qantas ticket to fly on Emirates to Auckland before connecting to American Airlines to the US.

Across the Pacific, American’s Boeing 787-8 features 28 seats with direct aisle access in business class, 48 in American’s extra-legroom economy product Main Cabin Extra, and 150 in the regular Main Cabin seats.


American, like many airlines, selected the ultra-narrow and unpopular 3-3-3 seating configuration for its Dreamliners, and passengers will feel those seats on the twelve-plus hour flight. The competition is little better, however, with Air New Zealand’s 3-4-3 configuration Boeing 777-200ER and 777-300ER aircraft, plus a 3-3-3 layout on the Kiwi carrier’s 787-9 Dreamliners.

Qantas and American Airlines have a four-year-old immunised joint venture between North America and the Australia-New Zealand market, and the US carrier will start service between Los Angeles and Sydney from next month with its Boeing 777-300ER.

The carriers announced a proposal to move to a route revenue sharing component within the joint venture in June, when the American Airlines service from LAX was announced. Australia’s ACCC competition approved the new JV arrangements in July, while the US Department of Transportation has requested further information from the carriers before making its decision.

The addition of an American Airlines flight on the main Australia-North America trunk route between Sydney and LA also means that Qantas can move capacity to San Francisco, returning to a destination the airline cut in 2011 as part of a massive restructuring of its international operations.

Of course, as airline history buffs will know, these won’t be American’s first flights to New Zealand. The airline operated a short-lived Boeing 707 service starting in 1970, and a DC-10-30 that commenced in 1990 from LAX to Honolulu and on to Auckland.