Air New Zealand was forced to leave dozens of bags behind on its very first flight from New York JFK to Auckland after a weather system over the eastern seaboard of the United States forced a small reroute that pushed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner close to its limits.
To ensure the four year old aircraft had enough range to fly 14,207 km distance to Auckland, the Aotearoa flag carrier had to offload at least 40 bags from the hold to reduce the overall weight of the aircraft.
Air New Zealand’s flagship flight NZ1 departed New York JFK nearly two hours late on Saturday night and eventually landed at 8:27 am on Monday morning after a flight time of 16 hours and 36 minutes.
The airline first announced its intention to serve the New York area with direct flights from Auckland a couple of years ago but the pandemic quickly put those plans on hold and it wasn’t until March that Air New Zealand finally confirmed it was launching its first ever JFK service.
Air New Zealand is serving the Big Apple with a three-times weekly service using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that offers three cabin classes – Business, Premium Economy and Economy. The airline also offers a limited number of Economy Skycouches which allow passengers to spread out over a row of three seats.
Passenger capacity is, however, already capped due to weight restrictions on the return leg from New York meaning that some seats in the Economy cabin have to be blocked off to increase the range of the aircraft.
Adverse weather conditions on Saturday evening put even more pressure on the service.
“Unfortunately, given additional fuel requirements due to adverse weather, some customer bags were unable to be loaded in New York and we are getting them to New Zealand as soon as possible,” explained chief operating officer Alex Marren to the New Zealand Herald.
“We are in touch with customers to update them and reunite them with their bags. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this has caused,” Marren continued.
Some passengers on the inaugural flight say they had no idea their bags had been offloaded and had to wait over an hour at the baggage carousel in Auckland before it became apparent that their luggage hadn’t made it to New Zealand.
It could take at least two days before baggage makes it back to New Zealand.
Air New Zealand is believed to have, in part, launched its AKL-JFK service to steal a march on regional rival Qantas’ ultra-long-haul ‘Project Sunrise’ non-stop flights that will eventually connect Sydney and Melbourne with London and New York JFK.
Not to be outdone, however, Qantas is set to go head to head with Air New Zealand by launching its own flights to New York JFK from Sydney with a stopover in Auckland. Qantas is expected to launch the route in June 2023.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.