Continental Airlines plans to begin nonstop Boeing 787 flights from its Houston hub to Auckland, New Zealand on November 16, 2011, subject to government approval.
Auckland will be added to the 63 international destinations that Continental currently serves nonstop from Houston, and will become the 26th destination in Continental’s Pacific network. Continental serves more destinations in the Pacific region than any other U.S. carrier.
Continental Airlines will be one of just three airlines flying nonstop between North America and New Zealand. At approximately 7,400 statute miles, the new route will be the longest from Continental’s Houston hub. Continental plans to operate the route on a daily basis, with five-times-weekly service during certain unspecified periods in the first year of operation.
On May 3, Continental Airlines announced that it has agreed to merge with United Airlines in a merger of equals to create the world’s leading airline. Continental says the success of the Houston-Auckland route will be enhanced by the additional traffic flows through Houston that are expected to result from the merger.
Continental also says that with the Houston-Auckland route announcement it is the first airline in the world formally to announce specific, initial route plans for its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet. The airline has firm orders for 25 Dreamliners. Deliveries of Continental’s 787s are expected to begin in August 2011. The aircraft will have 228 seats, including 36 of Continental’s new flat-bed BusinessFirst seats on long-distance flights.
On May 26, the airline unveiled a modernized and expanded customer check-in facility in Terminal C at its Houston hub at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
“Our new route to Auckland and our new and upgraded facilities at IAH are tangible examples of the emphasis we place on continuing to expand Houston’s role in domestic and international aviation,” says Jeff Smisek, Continental’s chairman, president and CEO. “This hub has ongoing growth opportunities because it has a strategic location, space for expansion, support from the community and an excellent team of Continental co-workers who deliver our clean, safe and reliable service.”
“This new flight between Houston and Auckland shows how the Dreamliner will create new opportunities to connect global markets that currently are not being served,” says Mario Diaz, Houston Airport System’s director of aviation. “As the largest hub for Continental, George Bush Intercontinental Airport is honored to be selected as the launch pad for the Continental Boeing 787.”
Continental says the Houston-Auckland route will benefit from connecting traffic at both ends. Continental’s Houston hub will draw passengers from throughout North America. In addition, Houston will be a very competitive connecting hub for travelers on itineraries between Europe and Auckland.
Meanwhile, Auckland International Airport (AKL) is home to Air New Zealand, one of the 27 carriers which are members of the Star Alliance, as are Continental, United and US Airways in the U.S. Air New Zealand and its regional-airline partners offer service to 20 destinations in New Zealand and seven in Australia, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Coolangatta (Gold Coast), Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Continental says it will begin taking reservations and selling tickets on the new route later this year. The preliminary schedule for the new Houston-Auckland service calls for Continental’s 787 flight to depart IAH at 9:30 p.m. suring the summer schedule, arriving at AKL at 5:10 a.m. local time two days later. In summer, the return flight is timed to depart AKL at 3:40 p.m. and to arrive back at IAH at 11:50 a.m. local time the same day.
In winter, the flight is timed to leave IAH at 9:10 a.m. and arrive at AKL at 6:55 a.m. two days later, local time. The return flight is scheduled to depart AKL at 5:55 p.m. and arrive at IAH at 11:55 a.m. the same day.
Auckland’s waterside location has fostered a deep love of the sea among its inhabitants, earning New Zealand’s largest city the nickname “City of Sails”. The city sprawls over a narrow isthmus between the waters of the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours. A cloak of rainforest covers the surrounding hills, dozens of dormant volcanic cones dot the landscape and inviting islands are scattered throughout the vast Hauraki Gulf. Two of the best island getaways are Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island.
Auckland’s people are a melting pot of European, South Pacific and Asian cultures, as well as a strong indigenous Maori heritage. This diversity brings with it an abundance of unique dining and shopping experiences. The city’s temperate climate, easy access to the coast and variety of activities earn Auckland consistent “top five” rankings in international lifestyle surveys.
New Zealand’s landscapes, lush forests, wildlife and pleasant climate make it a haven for many outdoor activities. A great advantage of New Zealand is that all of its diverse physical, cultural and artistic landscapes are relatively close to each other, with no domestic nonstop flight lasting longer than two hours.