Qantas Switches Stopover To Auckland For New York Relaunch

Before the pandemic Qantas' JFK flights stopped over in Los Angeles, but CEO Alan Joyce sees “significant advantages” in the switch to Auckland.

Credit: Joe Pries

Qantas has announced plans to relaunch one-stop flights from Sydney (SYD) to New York Kennedy International Airport (JFK) next year, but it will use Auckland (AKL) as its new stopover and connecting point instead of Los Angeles (LAX).

The carrier intends to start flights between Auckland and JFK in June 2023. The service will initially operate three days per week, using Boeing 787-9s.

Qantas will join Air New Zealand on the Auckland-JFK route. The New Zealand carrier is due to launch its own three-days-per-week flights to New York on Sept. 17, also using 787-9s. Both airlines list the travel time as 16 hr. northbound and 17.5 hr. southbound.

Qantas suspended its JFK service via Los Angeles after the pandemic struck. There are “significant advantages” to switching the stopover to Auckland, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said during a media briefing.

A major factor is that Auckland offers more connecting opportunities for Qantas than Los Angeles.

The flight will be Sydney-Auckland-JFK, but passengers can also connect to the JFK flight from other Australian cities via Auckland. Qantas currently has a total of six daily flights to Auckland from three Australian cities, and it will have 11 per day by the time the JFK flights resume next year.

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Joyce noted that Qantas was not allowed to sell seats for the Los Angeles-New York domestic leg, but the carrier has the right to offer Auckland-New York flights.

Many US tourists visit Australia and New Zealand on the same trip, and the new routing will allow Qantas to more easily cater to this demand, Joyce said.

Qantas has a longer-term plan to launch non-stop flights from Sydney to New York under its Project Sunrise initiative. The airline has ordered Airbus A350-1000s for this purpose, and intends to launch the flights in 2025.

Joyce said Qantas aims to retain the one-stop flights via Auckland even after the non-stop New York route is launched. “We think they could complement each other and potentially serve slightly different markets,” Joyce said.

The carrier intends to upgrade its Auckland lounge, and as part of this project will expand its capacity at the airport by 40%. This move will account for the increased number of Qantas passengers connecting in Auckland after the JFK flight starts, Joyce said.