Air New Zealand is to axe its London-Los Angeles service from October 2020 as the carrier battles “changing market dynamics”.
Despite operating its flagship route from Heathrow since 1982, which provides an onward connection to Auckland, the airline said a more crowded marketplace and a decline in passengers opting to travel via LA had prompted the decision.
“The number of ways to fly between London and Auckland has more than doubled in the past decade, changing customer preferences,” said acting chief executive Jeff McDowall.
“Less than 7% of all airline travellers between London and Auckland chose to fly via Los Angeles last year.
“At the same time, the Atlantic has become one of the most hotly-contested routes in the world and Air New Zealand lacks the home market advantages and scale of the European and North American airlines we’re up against.”
Air New Zealand’s withdrawal from Heathrow will see the closure of its cabin crew base and, subject to consultation, around 25 roles within its Hammersmith sales office and ground team – putting at least 150 jobs at risk.
Its London-Los Angeles service will operate as scheduled until October 2020 and no tickets have been sold beyond this date.
Air New Zealand said it had chosen to announce the services’ cancellation more than a year in advance “to allow time to support its people and to avoid any impact to customers booked to travel”.
Europe, including the UK, remains a significant sales region for Air New Zealand, the carrier maintained, adding how currently more than two-thirds of revenue generated by its London team is unrelated to the Atlantic route.
Air New Zealand will retain a sales, marketing and cargo presence in London to serve this important market, including after the cessation of the London-Los Angeles service.
Customers wishing to travel between London and New Zealand after October 2020 will continue to have a variety of options with Air New Zealand and its airline partners offering more ways to New Zealand via 12 hubs, including New York.
Instead of its London-Los Angeles route, Air New Zealand plans a New York-Auckland service three times a week from next autumn.
McDowall said the service had the greatest opportunity for long-term profitable growth.
“Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base in Auckland and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim.
“Visitor growth to New Zealand is strongest from North America and performance of our new service between Chicago and Auckland is exceeding expectations. New York has been an aspiration for Air New Zealand for some time and withdrawal from the Atlantic will free up aircraft capacity to help make this milestone a reality."
Air New Zealand will fly between its partner United Airlines’ New York hub of Newark Liberty and Auckland year-round, using a Boeing 787-9.
Tickets for the service will go on sale shortly, subject to regulatory approvals and landing slot confirmation.