Air New Zealand axes Buenos Aires and London routes for good, postpones New York service by at least a year

An Air New Zealand Boeing 777-319(ER) with registration ZK-OKQ takes off from Heathrow Airport. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

Air New Zealand is postponing its long-awaited non-stop flights between Auckland and New York from October this year to "late 2021 at the earliest".

The airline says its Auckland-Buenos Aires services and Los Angeles-London services, which are currently suspended, will not be returning even after COVID-19 travel restrictions are eased.

Last year Air NZ announced plans to close its London base and bring an end to its Los Angeles-London service by October 2020, but ongoing coronavirus flight restrictions mean the London service was unlikely to return before then.

The airline says demand for international is at just five percent compared to 2019. Pushing back launching direct flights to New York will be particularly painful as it has long been a dream of the airline.

"It's deeply disappointing to be in this position. Our people have worked tenaciously over the years to build these markets and excitement was growing for our non-stop New York flight," said the airline's Networks, Strategy and Alliances officer Nick Judd. 

"However, the effects of COVID-19 continue to bite; we expect most countries to take a cautious approach to international travel in the next year and we have to be pragmatic.

"Government travel restrictions will continue for some time and demand for our Los Angeles-London service is unlikely to recover before our planned exit in October. Argentina has been challenging before the pandemic and we don't expect this market to recover quickly."

Air NZ's current international operations are limited to essential travel and cargo routes, with just a handful of flights scheduled each day until June 30.