Passenger Numbers Down But Brighter Days Ahead At Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand posted its August traffic results on Tuesday morning, revealing better numbers than the previous August, but also the impact of recent lockdowns in New Zealand and the suspension of the trans-Tasman travel corridor. The results come as New Zealand starts to shift on border closures, boding a brighter future for the airline.

Passenger numbers are down at Air New Zealand but possibly not for long. Photo: Boeing

Air New Zealand flew 503,000 passengers in August

In an investor update, Air New Zealand confirmed flying 503,000 passengers in August. While this is up on the 350,000 passengers carried in August 2020, it is half the 1,075,000 passengers carried in July 2021 and 38% of the 1,321,000 passengers flown in August 2019.

In August, just as the latest round of lockdowns in New Zealand were beginning to crunch the airline’s domestic network, CEO Greg Foran said Air New Zealand was playing the hands it was dealt, adapting as conditions changed.

Across Air New Zealand’s network in August, there were 564,000 available seat kilometers, and passenger load factors averaged 62.9%. 478,000 (or 95%) flew on Air New Zealand’s domestic network of the total number of passengers carried.

Air New Zealand’s international network remains in the doldrums. The airline flew just 21,000 passengers across to and from Australia in August. In July, the New Zealand Government hit the pause button on the quarantine-free travel corridor, effectively killing passenger traffic on the sector.

Elsewhere across Air New Zealand’s international network, the airline carried 3,000 passengers to and from North America in August and 1,000 passengers to and from the Asian ports it continues to fly to.

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Changes afoot with New Zealand borders

But there may be some relief on the horizon for Air New Zealand. Hours after Simple Flying reported on Air New Zealand mandating passenger vaccinations on international flights from February 1, 2022, the New Zealand Government said it would drop its COVID elimination strategy. That significantly helps pave the way for New Zealand to look at re-opening its borders.

“Vaccines were always going to change the way we manage COVID-19 into the future,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday. On the same day, nearly half of all Kiwis were confirmed as fully vaccinated, and after seven weeks, Auckland began to see an easing of lockdown restrictions.

Air New Zealand’s vaccination mandate also coincided with a similar announcement from the New Zealand Government. Full vaccination will become a requirement for non-New Zealand citizens arriving into the country from November 1.

A brighter 2022 is on the horizon for Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand’s international schedules for the first few months of 2022 remain thin. However, with their new-founded adaptability, Air New Zealand’s schedules can be boosted when re-opening dates firm up.

At the same time, the airline is hedging its bets with the Australian market. On Monday, Air New Zealand published its tentative January schedule for trans-Tasman flights. Across the bulk of the month, Air New Zealand has scheduled just two flights a week from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane to Auckland.

But January is still four months away, and things move fast in the airline industry these days. A lot can happen between now and then.

Meanwhile, in a busy Air New Zealand news day, the airline also lost a senior executive on Monday. Auckland Airport has poached Air New Zealand’s Chief Operating Officer Carrie Hurihanganui. Ms Hurihanganui will become the airport’s new Chief Executive Officer in early 2022. Greg Foran says the airline will appoint her successor during the next few months.