On its first flight from New York JFK to Auckland, Air New Zealand was forced to leave dozens of baggage because a weather system over the eastern seaboard of the United States necessitated a brief detour that nearly drained and pushed the Boeing 787 Dreamliner close to its limits.
The four-year-old aircraft needed to be lighter overall so it could travel the 14,207 kilometers to Auckland, therefore the national airline of New Zealand had to remove at least 40 suitcases from the hold.
Air New Zealand, NZ1, took off from New York JFK on Saturday night almost two hours late and landed at 8:27 am on Monday after a 16-hour, 36-minute flight.
The pandemic quickly put those plans on hold, and it wasn’t until March that Air New Zealand officially declared it would be starting its first-ever JFK service. The airline had initially stated its aim to serve the New York area with direct flights from Auckland a couple of years earlier.
— Air New Zealand ✈️ (@FlyAirNZ) September 18, 2022
Using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with three cabin classes—Business, Premium Economy, and Economy—Air New Zealand runs a three times weekly service to New York City. Additionally, a small number of Economy Skycouches are available on the airline, allowing customers to spread out over a row of three seats.
However, due to weight limits on the flight back from New York, the number of passengers is already capped, therefore some seats in the economy section must be blocked in order to extend the aircraft’s range.
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 claimed they had to wait over an hour at the baggage carousel in Auckland before realizing their luggage hadn’t made it to New Zealand because they were unaware that their bags had been offloaded.
Before luggage returns to New Zealand, it could take at least two days.
It’s thought that a portion of the reason Air New Zealand started its AKL-JFK route was to overtake regional rival Qantas to the ultra-long-haul, non-stop “Project Sunrise” flights that will eventually connect Sydney and Melbourne with London and New York JFK.
But not to be outdone, Qantas will introduce its own flights from Sydney to New York JFK with a layover in Auckland to compete directly with Air New Zealand. In June 2023, Qantas plans to launch the service.