Air New Zealand’s flight from Auckland to the US will make stops in Honolulu. Not to let off passengers, or to refuel, or to pick up or drop off cargo, but rather to change crews.
Air New Zealand’s limited US flights
New Zealand has been among the strictest countries when it comes to border restrictions, as the country has been aiming to be free of coronavirus.
While a majority of Air New Zealand’s long haul fleet is grounded, the airline is operating a skeleton fleet of Boeing 787-9s. As it stands, the carrier’s US services are as follows:
- Air New Zealand operates two weekly passenger flights between Auckland and Los Angeles
- Air New Zealand operates several weekly cargo flights between Auckland and both Los Angeles and San Francisco
While passenger demand is understandably way down, we’ve seen all kinds of airlines operate flights largely to transport cargo, which has become big business. Then there are the limited number of passengers who are eligible to fly to & from New Zealand. This typically includes Kiwis, either leaving the country or returning home (upon return to New Zealand they have to quarantine in a government facility for 14 days).
Air New Zealand’s US flights will stop in Hawaii
Starting in the coming weeks, Air New Zealand’s flights from Auckland to both Los Angeles and San Francisco will stop in Honolulu in both directions. As it’s described, this decision is intended to reduce the risk of crew members contracting COVID-19.
Let’s use the two weekly passenger flights between Auckland and Los Angeles as an example. The way this is going to work, Air New Zealand crews will have their layovers in Honolulu rather than Los Angeles. That means this trip will be rostered as follows:
- A crew will operate the flight from Auckland to Honolulu
- Then after a layover of around three days, the crew will operate the flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles to Honolulu in a single day
- Then after a layover of around three days, the crew will operate the final sector from Honolulu to Auckland
In other words, with the twice weekly service, the trip would have previously taken about half a week for a crew, while it will now take an entire week. With case numbers being as high as they are in Los Angeles, the airline thinks it’s safer for crews to instead overnight in Honolulu.
Despite laying over in a “safer” place, crews still have to quarantine in their hotel rooms during their layovers, and aren’t allowed to leave. While crews aren’t subjected to the full 14-day quarantine upon their return home, they do have to quarantine for two days and then get tested, before being allowed to go out.
For context on what this means for the Auckland to Los Angeles routing:
- The nonstop flight would cover a distance of 6,504 miles, while the flight with a stop will cover a distance of 6,945 miles, so this adds about ~7% to the distance flown
- The Auckland to Honolulu flight covers a distance of ~4,400 miles, and the Honolulu to Los Angeles flight covers a distance of ~2,500 miles
Air New Zealand’s US services will route via Honolulu until further notice, so that crews can have layovers there rather than on the mainland. This is intended to keep crews safe, and the decision was made in spite of the fact that crews can’t even leave their hotel rooms during layovers.
(Tip of the hat to Joseph)