Air NZ poised for big expansion

Air New Zealand is poised to reveal details of a big expansion of its international network, most likely in Asia.

It has for the past year been working to forge new relationships with airline partners and the addition of new aircraft from the middle of the year gives it scope to fly to new long-haul destinations itself.

Air New Zealand has signalled it is firmly in growth mode as part of its "go beyond" strategy, returning its long-haul airline to profit by focusing on Pacific Rim expansion.

The airline put more capacity into the recovering North American market last year, leaving Asia the most likely area for further expansion.

Travel industry sources expect an announcement this week.

This month chief executive Christopher Luxon said the arrival of new planes this year would allow the airline to access more markets.

Its eight Boeing 777-200s are being refurbished at its Auckland engineering base this year, the first of 10 787-9 Dreamliners arrive from mid-year and two additional Boeing 777-300s are being added to the fleet on operating leases over the next two years.

It has ruled out using its Dreamliners on ultra-long-haul direct flights to the middle of the United States or India and would use them on existing routes to Perth, China and Japan.

Last year Air New Zealand entered into a strategic alliance with Cathay Pacific on its Auckland-Hong Kong route and on to London following deals with Virgin Australia and a code share deal with Japanese airline ANA.

International Air Transport Association figures show profits for Asia-Pacific airlines are expected to rise from US$3.2 billion ($3.8 billion) last year to US$4.1 billion this year.

- Grant Bradley of the New Zealand Herald

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