Airline starts offering 17-hour direct flights from New York to New Zealand

New Zealand’s flagship airline said Wednesday it has started selling tickets for direct flights to and from New York, a new route that will take more than 17 hours southbound and be among the longest nonstop flights in the world.

Air New Zealand had intended to start the route from Auckland to John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2020. But that was before the pandemic touched down. The flights will now start in September.

Roundtrip airfare for the 8,800-mile flights will run about $1,400.

For two years, New Zealand imposed some of the world’s toughest border restrictions, relating to COVID-19. But the government announced earlier this month that it would reopen to tourists from the United States and many other countries by May 1, as the pandemic threat receded.

Greg Foran, the airline’s chief executive, said such circumstances as the war in Ukraine and the zero-COVID policy in China had made Europe and Asia less desirable destinations.

“You’ve gone through a pretty tough couple of years in the US and here’s a brand new destination,” he said. “You turn up at JFK, you catch the plane at 9 o’clock at night and you land at 8 o’clock in the morning in New Zealand.”

Flights on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner are scheduled to last 16 hours northbound, helped slightly by the prevailing winds, and 17-and-a-half hours southbound. Time differences can help make it seem more like an overnight flight — albeit a long night — coming into New Zealand.

The Mayo Clinic lists long periods of uninterrupted sitting, including on flights, as a risk factor for developing deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, that usually occur in people’s legs.

Foran said there was no evidence that flights of 16 or 17 hours posed any extra health risks and that passengers would be able to get up and do some light exercise. He said the airline was looking at many ways to improve the flying experience for passengers.

At the moment, Singapore Airlines offers the longest regular direct flights, from Singapore to New York, that cover about 9,500 miles and have you in the air for 18 hours and 40 minutes.

Feature image: Air New Zealand passenger planes are parked on the tarmac at Auckland International Airport in Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, March 23, 2022. New Zealand’s flagship airline said Wednesday it plans to start direct flights to New York in September, a route that would take more than 17 hours southbound and be among the longest nonstop flights in the world.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)

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