According to the NZ Herald today, tourism officials are hoping a new, direct air link between Auckland and New York will help increase the flow of American visitors to New Zealand - this time via tropical Tahiti.
Air Tahiti Nui, the airline of French Polynesia, is about to start using its new long-range Airbus A340-300 aircraft to fly between Auckland and New York, landing only for a short refuelling stop at Papeete.
Travellers previously had to endure a day-long stopover in Tahiti before flying on to the United States. Now touted as the fastest way to travel between New Zealand and New York, this Air Tahiti Nui flight will take 18 hours and 40 minutes.
It takes about 5 1/2 hours to fly from NY to LAX. It takes 12 1/2 hours to fly from LAX to AKL. That means that by the time you change planes and get your luggage it is better to catch the Air Tahiti flight.
New Zealand tourism promoters are getting in on the act, joining forces with Air Tahiti Nui to get New Yorkers, already seduced by Air Tahiti Nui's advertising of beaches and swaying palm trees, to include a New Zealand stop on their holiday.
Airline founder and chief executive Nelson Levy, in Auckland recently to promote the new service, said tourists visiting Tahiti also wanted to make another stop, with New Zealand and Australia popular. He said the shared Polynesian culture between Tahiti and New Zealand was one marketing angle that was used to attract visitors to both countries.
Levy expects the flights, which begin on March 26, to be popular with New Zealanders, who will no longer have to change aircraft and airlines in California, although the lure of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills still appeals to a lot of people.
Tourism New Zealand chief executive George Hickton said the Air Tahiti Nui flights were a welcome addition to services connecting the country with the US east coast, the second biggest catchment of American visitors to New Zealand, after California.
He said 20 per cent of US visitors also incorporated a Pacific Island holiday into their trip.
Tourism New Zealand had been speaking to Air Tahiti Nui executives about different promotions combining New Zealand and Tahiti. This was likely to include bringing US-based writers to New Zealand on the flights.
Meanwhile, congestion at Los Angeles is one of the reasons Air New Zealand is finding its flights to San Francisco increasingly popular. In June, it will move to a daily service between the two cities.
LAX seems to be fine every time I fly in and out. I watched the Air NZ 945pm flight leave LAX last night and it was great to see the 747 in its glory on it's was back to Auckland.
Air NZ began flying to San Francisco in June 2004, in part to provide a "second gateway".
Air Tahiti will fly from Auckland three times a week, leaving on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, returning on Monday and Wednesday.
Air New Zealand should try and compete with Qantas and have a flight that goes to NY. Having said that United is ANZ's co share partner has USA covered, although it is nice to have the ANZ service and stay on one plane. I am not sure that there is any direct flights from NY to Hawaii, maybe Air New Zealand could pick that one up although it will still be quicker to take the Air Tahiti flight.
Way to go Air Tahiti-Nui.