Air New Zealand is facing not one but two new competitors on the non-stop services between Auckland and Los Angeles route this week, with a third being added next month.
United Airlines on Monday launches the first of its three weekly Auckland-Los Angeles direct services, the same day Delta Air Lines starts flying the route daily, which American Airlines will also be doing from December 22.
Other airlines also operate the route with stopovers on the way, but four airlines flying Auckland-Los Angeles direct over the peak summer season presents Kiwi travellers with an all-new level of variety for convenient non-stop options - but it may not necessarily bring down ticket prices as much as some might hope.
Air traffic between Aotearoa and other US cities is also ramping up, with Auckland Airport saying its capacity to North America is set to be 26 percent greater this summer than it was pre-COVID-19.
United's regional manager of New Zealand, Tahiti and Australia, Tim Wallace, appeared on AM on Monday morning and tempered expectations of ticket prices dropping below pre-pandemic levels.
"I would think as we add more supply into the market you would hope prices will come down a touch, for sure. But it's not just the cost of goods at the supermarket that we're all familiar with having gone up, the costs for businesses are also a lot higher," said Wallace.
"Fuel is very volatile and our labour costs have gone up, so the cost of travel is not going to return to 2019 levels in a hurry, I don't think.
"But we really believe it is great value to get across to North America for $1200 - $1500 economy class roundtrip tickets - that still represents great value in terms of going over to do business or to connect with family and friends, if you compare that to perhaps what we can end up paying for domestic flights or trans-Tasman flights."
United is a Star Alliance member and partners with Air New Zealand on some services. The Chicago-based airline is operating a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Auckland-Los Angeles route with flight UA643 departing Auckland at 3:40pm each Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. A fourth weekly service will be added in December.
By the end of this year United said it will be operating double the number of New Zealand flights it did in 2019. Those will make up some of the 66 weekly flights it will be operating between the US and the wider South Pacific region by the start of 2024.
UA642 arrived into Auckland on Monday morning at 6:31am, less than two hours before the first ever Delta Air Lines commercial passenger flight landed in the country.
Delta is operating Airbus A350-900 aircraft on its Auckland-Los Angeles route, with DL65 touching down in Tāmaki Makaurau at 8:01am. The Atlanta-based airline's daily return flights depart Auckland as DL64 at 2pm. Following the busy summer season, the airline will reduce its flights to three per week from March through until October.
American Airlines launches daily flights to Los Angeles using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on December 22, departing Auckland at 3:50pm. These will be in addition to the daily services the airline already flies between Auckland and its Dallas-Fort Worth base.
Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines and Air Canada also fly direct between North American destinations and Auckland at least three times per week during the peak summer period.
As well as its Los Angeles route, Air New Zealand flies out of Auckland to Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver.