Video: Onboard the emotional last flight for Air New Zealand's London crew

They may live and work on the other side of the world, but this team was as much a part of the Air New Zealand family as those serving lollies on domestic flights around Aotearoa.

But at the weekend, a team of Air New Zealanders flew the iconic koru between London and Los Angeles for the last time.

The Air NZ base at Heathrow, which employs 130 flight attendants, was meant to close in October when the airline had planned to replace the London service with one to New York.

However, due to the impact of coronavirus on air travel, the route was suspended until the end of June. So, the chances of the iconic black and white tail racing down the runway at Heathrow again remain very slim as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

Air New Zealand has been flying between Auckland and London in some shape or form for 36 years. The route was so much a part of the airline's history that it carried the flagship flight number, NZ1 - or NZ2 if you were flying north.

Emotional Air NZ London employees make historic final trip.
Emotional Air NZ London employees make historic final trip. Photo credit: Air New Zealand.

The final flight was of course an emotional time for the crew onboard, staff on the ground and even people with no link to the airline whatsoever.

The owner of BigJetTV, a streaming service which broadcast the flight's departure live on social media, said he had an unexpected tear in his eye as he filmed NZ1 fly out of London.

Cabin crew manager Rebecca Wraight said the team had decades of memories they'll never forget.

"The love, care, support and most importantly fun that we have all had working together over the years has embedded a true legacy for New Zealand in the UK," Wraight said.

"I couldn't be more proud."

One crew member likened walking off the aircraft for the last time to moving out of your childhood home. 

"Taking one last look around at an empty space that you've spent so much time in. As difficult as it was, everyone supported one another from the very beginning until the very end, laughing and joking as we always did."

The possibly premature ending of this route was brought about by coronavirus, which is being the most difficult period in commercial aviation's history, but the farewell message shared to everyone onboard NZ1 while parking up in London was simple.

"Thank you, thank you very much for flying with Air NZ. To our customers, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey and to my friends and colleagues, wherever your journey takes you, good luck and best wishes."

"Until we meet again, mā te wā." 

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