The fascinating reason why Air New Zealand’s US flights will stop in Hawaii during the pandemic

Jan 6, 2021

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The coronavirus has upended airline route networks as we know them.

In addition to adding new leisure-focused destinations for passengers, airlines have redrawn their route maps to minimise the chance that crew members contract the virus.

The latest modification comes from Air New Zealand. Beginning 2 February, the carrier’s U.S. flights will operate with a stop in Honolulu for a crew change.

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Air New Zealand explains that the Hawaii stop will allow “our crew members to overnight in Honolulu rather than Los Angeles” in an effort to reduce the risk of crews catching the virus on the mainland, where positivity rates have climbed as high as 15% and up.

While flights will stop in Honolulu, passengers won’t be able to get off the plane for an island excursion. The crew that operates the Auckland to Honolulu flight will layover there before returning to New Zealand a few days later.

A new crew will fly from Honolulu to the mainland and back, where they’ll rest for a few days. Finally, a third crew will fly from Honolulu to Auckland.

Though New Zealand is closed for tourism, returning citizens and others with pre-approved visas can travel to the country on an Air New Zealand flight.

Due to the significantly reduced demand, the airline has cut its U.S. operations to just two weekly Los Angeles flights, Cirium schedules show. The airline continues to operate multiple cargo-only flights to both Los Angeles and San Francisco. One Mile at a Time reports that the carrier’s cargo flights will also stop in Honolulu.

The new Honolulu stop will add about 500 miles to the Los Angeles flights, which represents an additional two hours or so of travel time.

Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline to redraw its route network to accommodate its crewmembers.

American, Delta and United aren’t flying directly to China, citing the lengthy waits crew face on arrival, as well as the other coronavirus-related restrictions placed upon them during layovers. Instead, they’ve added stops in Seoul, South Korea to avoid staying over in China.

United, for its part, has even detailed a new repatriation process for pilots that test positive for the virus during a work trip. The Chicago-based carrier has promised to ferry infected or possibly infected crewmembers back to the United States on non-passenger flights.

Featured photo courtesy of Slattery 

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