Air New Zealand has announced it will start flying to Houston, Texas from December 2015, opening up a direct connection between New Zealand and America’s South for the first time.
Air New Zealand will fly its completely refitted Boeing 777-200 aircraft between Auckland and Houston up to five times a week and the move has been welcomed by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
The new service will provide for a more direct route for the millions of US citizens living in the south and east of the country, and for New Zealanders heading in the opposite direction.
“We already get thousands of visitors a year from states such as Texas, Florida and New York and this new service should allow us to boost those numbers further,” Key said.
“Providing greater links with these states, with relatively affluent populations, also aligns with New Zealand’s desire to attract more high-spending visitors to further boost our economy.”
The US is already New Zealand’s third-largest visitor market behind Australia and China, with 226,608 arrivals in the year to February – a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.
Spending by US arrivals has also grown 32 per cent over the same period, to NZD$771 million.
“This Government remains committed to promoting New Zealand as a world-class tourist destination and we will continue working with partners such as Air New Zealand to ensure the industry continues to grow,” Key said.
Today’s announcement means Air New Zealand will soon be offering direct services to five popular North American destinations – Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Hawaii and Houston.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon says the airline is hugely excited to be adding Houston to its list of international destinations, particularly as the move comes hard on the heels of the airline’s recent announcement that it will also begin flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December.
“We are absolutely committed to expanding our Pacific Rim network,” he said.
“We look forward to welcoming more visitors to New Zealand from the southern and Midwest states and major East Coast cities where the option to connect through Houston will effectively make New Zealand’s tourism proposition more accessible than ever before.”
United will code share on the Air New Zealand flight from Houston to Auckland and points beyond.
The new service has also been welcomed by Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ).
“We applaud Air New Zealand for moving to expand its North American direct services, connecting New Zealand with an even wider southern, mid-west and east coast population,” said CINZ Chief Executive Sue Sullivan.
“North America is becoming an increasingly important source of high-quality business event buyers for New Zealand. CINZ is certainly seeing a lot of interest from the North American market, both for our unique conferencing opportunities, and also for New Zealand’s premium incentive offerings.
“Tourism New Zealand is reporting a surge in interest from US conference and incentive organisers wanting to attend our business tourism trade exhibition, MEETINGS 2015 in June,” she said.
As principal sponsor of MEETINGS, Air New Zealand has been active in helping expand the business events market from North America.
“Last year at MEETINGS we noted the growing enthusiasm from North American buyers and media, eager to learn more about our conference and incentive products, and New Zealand’s cultural, recreational and luxury offerings,” Sullivan said.