Air NZ flight from New York touches down in Auckland after avoiding Fiji diversion

The non-stop New York route is served by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

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The non-stop New York route is served by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Air New Zealand’s non-stop flight from New York has touched down in Auckland, about two hours behind schedule, after earlier fears it would have to be diverted to Fiji.

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NZ1 departed New York’s John F Kennedy Airport at 9.55pm on Thursday, local time, and arrived at Auckland Airport at 9.40am Saturday.

Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer David Morgan said on Friday the flight would make a “short stop” in Fiji due to “unusually strong winds in its flight path”.

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“Refueling in Nadi is our standard contingency plan for these circumstances and has also been used in previous years for other routes on our network.”

The plane was originally due to land in Auckland at 7.30am, but following the diversion it was expected to arrive at 11.15am.

AIR NEW ZEALAND

Watch as Air New Zealand’s first direct flight to New York from Auckland lands at John F Kennedy International Airport on Sunday morning.

However, on Saturday morning, Morgan said crew on-board were able to “re-plan the flight based on actual and observed conditions”.

“Consequently, they were able to get our customers safely to Auckland, without the need to refuel in Nadi, two hours before their expected arrival time of 11.30am.

“Our teams have been communicating with the 80 customers who had onward connecting flights and they have all been rebooked and re-accommodated.”

There were 210 customers on board the flight in total. Morgan said all had been advised of the Nadi diversion prior to departure.

One of the passengers, Víctor Pérez, arrived in New Zealand after an eight-hour flight from Madrid to New York, an eight-hour layover at JFK, then the 17-hour flight from New York.

Pérez, a rally mechanic here for Rally New Zealand, said it was “better” the plane hadn’t had to stop in Fiji.

“We want to arrive as soon as possible.”

Pérez said he wouldn’t have been that bothered if the flight had had to stop in Fiji because it was only there to refuel and thought it would have only been on the ground for 30-45 minutes.

Janelle Ellwood missed her connecting flight to Brisbane because of the two-hour delay at JFK. However, she raved about the service aboard the flight and said, “the staff were wonderful”.

Víctor Pérez was on NZ1 from New York to Auckland.

James Halpin/Stuff

Víctor Pérez was on NZ1 from New York to Auckland.

Ellwood now had to wait until 4pm for a Qantas flight to Brisbane, which Air NZ had organized for her, she said.

She was visiting her son north of Boston who was getting married, but said next time she might do the flight via Vancouver to break it up.

“It’s a long flight but premium economy is OK, you can sleep and if you want to go and visit family in America, it’s what you’ve got to do.”

The flight was only the third service from New York since the eagerly anticipated route launched last weekend.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

The ultra-long-haul flight will initially be three-times-weekly, but the airline hopes to eventually make it daily.

The first flight from New York, which arrived in Auckland on Monday, saw about 65 passengers’ bags left behind in the Big Apple.

Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren said the airline had offloaded the bags so the flight could take on more fuel to go around a forecast cyclone.

Aviation commentator Irene King earlier this week predicted the flight might sometimes need to make a stopover in destinations like Hawaii or Fiji in adverse weather conditions.

This was because the Boeing 787-9 used on the service was nearing the upper limit of its flight envelope on the non-stop route, which has a scheduled flight time of 17 hours and 35 minutes.

King said Air New Zealand should make it clear to travelers its “non-stop” New York service might sometimes involve baggage delays or stopovers.

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