The first direct flight from Auckland to Bali since COVID-19 halted the route three years ago has taken off, marking a major milestone for Air New Zealand.
Flying direct to the Indonesian holiday hotspot dramatically cuts down travel time for Kiwis who have been getting there via stopovers in Australia.
Operated on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, NZ64 took off from Auckland Airport at 12:25pm on Wednesday. It's set for a just over nine hours of travel time before touching down in Denpasar at 4:20pm (local time) after covering more than 6700km.
The flight marked "another milestone" in the post-COVID-19 travel era for the national carrier, said chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty.
"It's pretty much the last of our seasonal services to be resumed and with Bali being such a high-demand destination for Kiwi travellers, we're thrilled to be able to have direct services operating again," she told Newshub.
Around 17,000 Kiwi tourists travelled to Bali via the direct Air NZ service in 2019, said Geraghty.
"We had 10,000 seats sold in the first week that we announced [the] resumption of the services and we're seeing demand come through quite strongly since that point [in October]."
The service would be "a huge benefit" for Kiwi travellers given it was non-stop, said Geraghty.
"We're really happy with how... bookings are tracking. We're increasing up to five services a week across the July school holiday period and we just know, as a destination, Bali is really popular across the board; whether it be for family holidays, adventure seekers or for couples who just want a really quiet getaway - it offers everything."
Before the reintroduction of the direct service, flights to Bali from New Zealand in the post-COVID-19 era with Air NZ and other airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia required a layover across the Tasman.
Jetstar also has indirect flights to Bali from Auckland and Queenstown, via Melbourne and Sydney, respectively. Asked whether it had any plans to introduce non-stop flights to the island from New Zealand, a spokesperson told Newshub the airline currently didn't have any announcements to make.
After today's special lunchtime flight, Air NZ will depart Auckland at 11am every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with the return flights departing Bali at 5:30pm (local time) on the same days, arriving back in Auckland at 5:30am the following morning.