The original A350-900 breaking cover in 2013

Air New Zealand is expected to launch ‘spoiler’ non-stop flights between Auckland and New York City years before Qantas can persuade Airbus or Boeing to build a jet which can serve the Big Apple non-stop from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Plane Talking spies have seen delegations from Airbus in the Kiwi carrier’s headquarters in recent months (mission unknown) and only this week it spoke of its determination to invest in new long haul jets from either Airbus or Boeing.

The long hyped (and highly honorable) Qantas ambition for such epic duration flights to London as well as NYC from the eastern capitals of Australia are likely to be dusted off for another run at the announcement later this morning of the QF group’s profits in the year to June 30.

(There is a detailed recital of this behind The Australian’s paywall this morning.)

Qantas is looking toward such a service by 2022, assuming it succeeds in persuading the two big planemakers to come up with a version of their airliners which could do the route with more than a token number of passengers.

The candidate airliner designs would include future versions of the Airbus A350, even the large capacity A380, and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner family and its 777-8, which has yet to fly as part of the 777-X family, but which is currently speculated to be ready by 2022.

The catch for Qantas is that an A350 ultra long range or URL model is available from the second half of next year, and with further tweaking, could carry a convincing multi-class payload of passengers between Auckland and any of NYC’s airports by 2020.

Auckland is about two hours flight time closer to the Big Apple than any eastern Australian city. Producing such a jet would not involve the same costs and risks for the jet makers as a more advanced derivative in terms of engines as well as airframes.

And while it would involve a one-stop flight from Australia to NYC just as happens today via Los Angeles or Dallas Fort Worth or Houston, anything that cuts out a second US airport along the way is a big plus for harassed flyers coping with seemingly dysfunctional security protocols on the other side of the Pacific.

Air NZ would be able to aggregate traffic from multiple Australian cities in Auckland (as it does now on some services) meaning that the onward flight has a far better chance of being sustainable in the immediate to medium term.

However Qantas would be dividing the demand for such ULR flights between dedicated jets flying from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, meaning a much higher risk of over capacity on three jets instead of one on any given day.

The Air NZ ‘plot’ to make Auckland the centre of the Universe, and not just Middle Earth, might eventually succumb to the pressure of demand from each Australian city, but neither Airbus nor Boeing has been able to meet their own deadlines for the higher volume introduction of new versions or models of wide body jets on time this century.

Thus a 2022 target date for a new jet to fit the Qantas ambitions for London and NYC may prove problematical, giving Air NZ a long ‘holiday’ from direct competition on a service to the latter destination.

In the post Brexit era non Australian airlines that could serve the London non-stop market include British Airways, indirectly part owned by Qatar Airways, and Virgin Atlantic, which is effectively controlled by US giant Delta.  All three are major A350 users or customers, with BA and QR also flying 787s and the Qatari flag carrier a launch customer for the 777-X series.

Delta would be the obvious US candidate carrier to exercise its open skies rights to fly non-stop between NYC and Auckland, as well as to Australian cities non-stop, once that capability in terms of larger loads is built into an airliner.

PS: The first Qantas 787-9 has broken cover outside the final assembly line at Everett north of Seattle

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