Air New Zealand is dipping its toe back into the pond of international travel, announcing its return to destinations not serviced since Aotearoa's borders were closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline's updated schedule begins on October 31 and sees the return of services to Tokyo and Taipei, along with 12 per week to North America.
Interestingly, Air NZ has also announced a service between Christchurch and Singapore operating five times a week from November 30, which may be an indication of where the airline believes future travel bubbles may open. However, the airline is playing down any speculation of a return to relative normality.
"As much as we wish the addition of the long haul flights to our schedule meant the reopening of the borders, unfortunately, it does not," said Air NZ's general manager networks Scott Carr.
Air New Zealand international schedule:
- Los Angeles - 3 return flights per week
- San Francisco - 3 return flights per week
- Vancouver - 3 return flights per week
- Honolulu - 3 return flights per week
- Hong Kong - 1 return flight per week
- Narita - 1 return flight per week
- Shanghai - 7 return flights per week
- Taipei - 1 return flight per week
- Seoul - 1 return flight per week
- Singapore - 7 return flights per week
- Singapore - 5 return services per week from November 30
"The schedule reflects the flying that we will undertake should the Maintaining International Air Connectivity scheme be extended. It also provides Kiwis that are wanting to return home after October 31 some certainty around when we intend to operate in order for them to secure their MIQ spaces."
The Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme provides financial support to the airline so long as it operates services to key ports, allowing for freight and repatriation.
Since May 2020, the Government has supported more than 7000 flights carrying over 136,000 tonnes of airfreight worth around $10 billion.
The current arrangement, which provides $170 million in support to airlines, is due to finish at the end of October, but it's likely that timeframe will be extended.
"We will consider extending support beyond October to a final date of March 2022 if necessary," transport minister Michael Wood said.
The Government currently has MIAC agreements with Air Tahiti Nui, Korean Air and China Airlines.