Air New Zealand confirms a Vietnam route and hints at the Philippines next

Air-New-Zealand-will-continueAir New Zealand has hinted the Philippines is also on its radar, on the same day it announced it would fly to Vietnam. From June to October, 2016 Air New Zealand will fly three times a week from Auckland to Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport with the potential to expand the season in subsequent years.

Air New Zealand chief strategy, networks and alliance officer Stephen Jones said the Philippines was also "a market of interest" for the airline.

Jasmine Louie dressed in traditional Vietnamese attire at Air New Zealand's announcement.

"It's a big market, it's growing, there's a lot of Filipinos in New Zealand," Jones said.

There was also strong two way traffic between New Zealand and the Philippines, he said.

Air New Zealand has previously said it was evaluating at least one other long haul route for launch in 2016.

Kiwi travellers will soon have direct access to Vietnam.

Kiwi travellers will soon have direct access to Vietnam.

In December Philippine Airlines will start flying to Auckland from Manila, operating four days a week using an Airbus A320 with a stopover in Cairns, Australia.

Air New Zealand would service the non-stop 11 hour Vietnam flight with  a 224-seat Boeing 767-300 aircraft but may eventually upgauge to a 302 seat 787-9 Dreamliner, Jones said.

READ MORE: Ten reasons to visit Ho Chi Minh city

Airfares had not been set but prices would be competitive when they go on sale early in 2015, he said.

He expected outbound New Zealand travel to Vietnam would make up about 85 per cent of passengers on the route.

A small team of less than 10 Air New Zealand staff would be on the ground in Vietnam.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges congratulated Air New Zealand on New Zealand's first ever route to Vietnam.

"I think it's an inspired choice" Bridges said.

Vietnam was an important market for New Zealand exports including agriculture, horticulture, energy, tourism and aviation trade, he said.

Bridges said earlier this year he signed an air services agreement with Vietnam's Ministry of Transport which "liberalised things" enabling direct flights and codesharing between the two countries.

The Government was interested in signing more air services agreements with Pacific rim countries.

"One of the areas that's got a huge amount of potential legs is Latin America."

With Air New Zealand launching flights to Buenos Ares in December the Government would like to make flights to other Latin American countries possible, he said.

Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism John Key said more than 15,000 New Zealanders travel to Vietnam each year a Vietnam route was likely to increase that number.


Air New Zealand's chief executive Christopher Luxon said the service was significantly more convenient, and quicker than current indirect options to Vietnam.

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said he expected the route to be skewed towards New Zealand outbound traffic as opposed to inbound Vietnamese.

"From our perspective, the new flight route from Air New Zealand isn't targeting those wanting to visit friends and family or travel for business purposes – it's a response to Vietnam's surge in popularity for Kiwi holidays," Thomas said.

This was supported by the fact that the route was seasonal, he said.

"If we estimate 700 seats per week are available over five months, we reckon we'll see around 10,000 Kiwis taking advantage of this new flight route and heading over to Vietnam."

Flight Centre NZ general manager product Sean Berenson said in 2015 it reported a 10 per cent increase in bookings to Vietnam, compared to the previous year.

"Traditionally Thailand and Bali have been key holiday spots for New Zealanders, particularly within the youth market, but Vietnam has been growing in recent years," Berenson said.

READ MORE: * Air New Zealand expected to announce new route American Airlines to fly Auckland-LA route

Statistics New Zealand figures show nearly 16,000 travellers left New Zealand for Vietnam in the 12 months to September, which was flat on the same period the previous year.

The announcement was made less than two days 48 hours after American Airlines announced it would take on Air New Zealand on the Auckland to Los Angeles route from June 25, 2016, through an alliance with Qantas, with tickets going on sale on November 23.

Air New Zealand starts flying Auckland to Buenos Aires three times a week from December 1 and Auckland to Houston five times a week from December 15.

On December 10 a new alliance between Air New Zealand and Air China begins with flights from Auckland to Beijing serviced by Air China's A330-200 aircraft.

 - Stuff