Auckland to Houston long haul service canned   1 Jun 2012

Pam Graham

A new direct flight from Auckland to Texas, hailed as a great development for New Zealand tourism, is being canned before it began.

Continental Airlines signalled in May 2010 that it wanted to fly from Houston to Auckland, testing the limits of Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner to open a direct route from the middle of the United States to New Zealand to compete with flights direct from Auckland to cities on the west coast.

The service was seen as a great opportunity for New Zealand to attract more visitors from the United States and was an example how new aircraft could revolutionise long haul travel to markets like New Zealand. The flight was estimated to take 13 hours and 23 minutes.

Delays to the development of the aircraft had already put back the original start date of November last year and on Friday Auckland International Airport said it had been advised by United Airlines, which has merged with Continental, that it has canned plans for the service.

Auckland International Airport chief executive Simon Moutter said United had shelved plans to expand a terminal in Houston because Houston City Council had decided to add international flights at the city’s second airport, William P. Hobby Airport.

“It is very disappointing that this important new service connecting New Zealand to the Untied States has been caught up in a local Houston dispute over airports,” Moutter said.

“It is equally frustrating that the delays in the delivery of the B787 aircraft have meant that the service was not already well under way by now,” he said.

He said New Zealand needed more air capacity to the United States and needed more carriers flying.

“We’ll continue to talk to United about options to connect with Auckland, and we will now increase our level of engagement with other carriers to explore a number of viable opportunities,” he said.

At approximately 7400 miles, the new route was to be the longest from Continental’s Houston hub.

Auckland Airport shares fell 0.6 percent to $2.56, while Air New Zealand’s shares fell 0.6 percent to 86.5 cents.

(BusinessDesk)

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