As New Zealand prepares to reopen to tourists ahead of schedule, the country’s national air carrier, Air New Zealand, is paving the way for their arrival, starting with a brand new nonstop route between New York City and Auckland.
Starting September 17, 2022, Air New Zealand will offer direct flights between Terminal 1 at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport and Auckland Airport, expanding the airline’s reach within North America. The airline will operate the new route three times a week, year-round with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, a model used often by Star Alliance partner United Airlines. The flight will offer 27 seats in business class, 33 in premium economy, 215 in economy, and 13 economy “Skycouches,” which are described as economy seats that convert into couches after takeoff for a more comfortable overnight flight.
This is the first-ever nonstop flight between New York and New Zealand, as well as from the East Coast to the South Pacific. And the southbound route will become the fourth longest commercial flight available worldwide at 17 hours and 35 minutes.
And JFK will be the seventh North American airport served by Air New Zealand, following Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Honolulu, and Vancouver.
“The U.S. has always been a key market for us, and this new route cements our commitment to growing opportunities for tourism between the two countries,” said Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran in a statement on Tuesday. “In the six years leading up to COVID, the U.S. visitor numbers to New Zealand doubled so we expect our much-awaited non-stop service to be incredibly strong year-round.”
After being closed for more than two years due to strict pandemic lockdowns, New Zealand’s government recently announced a reopening for nonessential travel, essentially restarting the country’s tourism industry. New Zealand had some of the strictest border controls in effect during the pandemic, but the results showed as the country had some of the lowest rates for COVID-19 cases and deaths worldwide. The country will first reopen, without a required quarantine period, to visitors from Australia first starting April 12. The borders will then be open to more tourists from visa-waiver countries, including the United States, from May 1.
But even as COVID restrictions are easing, they’re not completely gone. All travelers entering New Zealand must be fully vaccinated in line with New Zealand government entry requirements. And all visitors must present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test before departure.
Upon arrival in New Zealand, all travelers will be provided with two rapid antigen tests—at no charge—at Auckland Airport, which are self-administered after exit from the airport. Travelers will be asked to undertake the first test on day of arrival, and then a second test on day five after arrival, which can be conducted once travelers have left the airport (i.e. at home or at a hotel). In the case that a traveler does test positive for COVID-19 after arrival, they will be asked to self-isolate in line with the requirements that apply to all community COVID-19 cases in New Zealand.
Eager travelers can start booking tickets now. The red-eye departure is already scheduled for 9:55 p.m. Eastern Time from New York. Flights from Auckland to New York will depart at 7:40 p.m. local time.
“Traditionally, flight numbers 1 and 2 are used for an airline’s flagship route,” Foran said. “And that’s what New York will be—our flagship route.”
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