COVID-19: Air New Zealand rerouting US flights through Hawaii as California cases and deaths surge

As the US remains unable to contain surges of the COVID-19 pandemic despite vaccines being distributed, Air New Zealand says it's rerouting flights to the country to reduce risk to staff members.

From January 11, the airline will stop cargo flights in Honolulu and from February 2, passenger flights will also stop in the Hawaiin city.

There, the aircrew will be swapped out during a "brief stop" before the flight continues to either Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Both final destination cities are in the state of California, which over the past week has averaged 35,690 new cases and 335 coronavirus deaths per day. 

Rerouting through Honolulu will allow Air NZ aircrew to stay overnight "in a lower risk destination while still maintaining vital connections into North America", the airline says.

Longer travel times

When the passenger services start rerouting through Honolulu, it'll mean longer travel times for customers.

Air NZ hasn't explained exactly how long in its media release, nor given any indication of how long the "brief stop" in Hawaii is.

However, one can get some idea of how many extra hours they're in for by looking at the standard current flight times:

  • Auckland - Los Angeles: 12 hours, 10 minutes
  • Auckland - San Francisco: 12 hours, 30 minutes
  • Auckland - Honolulu: 9 hours
  • Honolulu - Los Angeles: 5 hours, 10 minutes
  • Honolulu - San Francisco: 4 hours, 50 minutes

Customers will not be able to end their journey in Honolulu.

Air NZ is currently operating eight cargo flights and two passenger services per week between Aotearoa and Los Angeles, in addition to four cargo services between Aotearoa and San Francisco and one cargo service from Australia to North America.

The airline is confident the disruption to customers is worth it.

"While it's important to keep trade routes open and passenger services operating for our customers, looking after our people is our first priority," says Air NZ CEO Greg Foran.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has helped us to move so quickly in rerouting our flights, from officials in New Zealand and the US, to our ground partners and our teams who have worked through the holiday break to make this happen."

The airline says it will be contacting customers affected by the changes in flights directly.