LONDON – Air New Zealand’s non-stop route between New York’s JFK airport and Auckland, New Zealand, now sees another setback. Strong headwinds are forcing the flight on October 26 to perform a refueling-stop in Nadi, Fiji. The service, which started last month as non-stop, has been seeing minor issues since the very start.
The Current Setback
In a recent announcement, Air New Zealand have announced that the flight on October 26 will be flown with a fuel stop at Fiji’s Nadi Int’l Airport. This is due to strong headwinds on the aircraft’s flight path.
According to NewstalkZB, Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer, Alex Marren, commented “Our priority is getting customers to where they need to go safely. It’ll mean a short stop in Nadi to refuel and swap over crew, which means NZ1 will arrive into Auckland around 5 hours later than expected.”
At the same time, he reassured affected passengers that rebookings for connecting flights would be made. Additionally, passengers were informed of a new crew being sent to Nadi to perform the flight from Nadi to Auckland. This is due to crew time running out.
Further, Marren said “We want to thank our customers for their patience and understanding with the changes to their travel plans.”
“While we can’t control the weather, we can plan for it and using our standard contingency plan to refuel means we get our customers safely to their destination,”
An Issue Since the Start
Since the service’s September launch, headwinds have been a huge factor with the westbound flight. It has persistently been hitting strong winds, causing problems from the start.
On the first flight westbound on this new route, Air New Zealand were forced to offload 60 of their passenger’s bags in order to proceed with the direct flight. Since then, strong winds have become an ever-greater issue.
The issue with winds even offered some passengers the opportunity to fly indirectly to Auckland whilst getting paid for it. This was in the form of compensation due to the inconvenience caused.
The flights are flown by Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. On paper, the aircraft can do the 14,200km journey halfway around the world. However, strong winds remains a factor, as the aircraft uses more power and fuel to maintain airspeed with strong headwinds.
The stop in Nadi does not come as a shock for Air New Zealand either. A stop in Nadi was said to be a possibility several months before the inaugural flight took to the air. Whilst planning the direct flight, Air New Zealand spent time analysing just over ten years of weather data to helping in establishing the route and it’s commercial viability.
Though it’s a step back from the “non-stop” first announced, it’s great to see Air New Zealand not taking any risks that could’ve lead to a possible emergency or in worst case, running out of fuel over the pacific ocean.
It’s pretty safe to say that Air New Zealand was somewhat prepared for something like this to happen as well. Given this was stopover was outlined as a possibility way in advance.