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Air New Zealand To Remove Boeing 777s From Victorville Storage Facility

  • Air New Zealand, Boeing 787, Paint issue

    Air New Zealand

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    NZ/ANZ

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Auckland Airport, Christchurch Airport, Wellington Airport

    Year Founded:
    1965

    Alliance:
    Star Alliance

    CEO:
    Greg Foran

    Country:
    New Zealand

Air New Zealand is bringing its first Boeing 777-300ER out of storage in Victorville, California. The plane has sat in the desert for almost two years. There are four of the Air New Zealand Boeings at Victorville and the plan is to have all of them back in the air by next year. They’ll join the three Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ERs already in Auckland. It’s a surprise second life for an aircraft type that Air New Zealand retired last year.

First of the Air New Zealand Boeing 777 prepares to leave Victorville

According to New Zealand media, ZK-OKP is in Victorville (VCV) being prepped for the flight home to Auckland (AKL). VH-OKP was delivered to Air New Zealand in November 2011. As planes go, it’s a relative spring chicken. Air New Zealand says it will take six to eight weeks to “reanimate” each of the parked planes. The plan is for ZK-OKP to leave Victorville in late August, have a brief layover in Los Angeles (LAX), and return to Auckland where it will undergo further maintenance and preparations before flying passengers again.

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“When the difficult decision was made to store our 777 fleet, we knew that the desert was an ideal environment due to its hot and dry conditions. After being stored for almost two years in this climate, they are coming out of long-term parking in good condition,” says Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Alex Marren. “No one could predict what would happen in the pandemic and now that demand has recovered faster than anticipated, we knew it was time to bring these aircraft back from Victorville.”

The Air New Zealand 777s are coming back to service the North American market

Just 12 months ago, Air New Zealand said it would permanently retire its Boeing 777-300ER fleet with immediate effect. Previously, the airline had flagged a retirement date around 2027. Four of the 777s had already gone to Victorville and three remained in Auckland. Air New Zealand had previously retired its 777-200s in 2020. In the post-pandemic future, Air New Zealand would become a two aircraft type airline – the Airbus A320s for local short-haul flying and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners for longer-haul international flying.

At least, that was the plan. In a classic boom-bust cycle, earlier this year Air New Zealand was bust and doing very slender amounts of international flying. That mattered because while international long-haul flights only ever constitute a minority of Air New Zealand’s total flights, they disproportionately boost the airline’s revenues.

An Air New Zealand Boeing 777 parked at Christchurch Airport earlier in the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Now, New Zealand is open for business again and the flag carrier is roaring back to life. In February, Air New Zealand’s long-haul flights were flying virtually empty. Now, getting a seat is a challenge. July was Air New Zealand’s busiest month since early 2020 and demand for flights in and out of the country is strong. Air New Zealand’s fleet of 787 Dreamliners are at capacity and by next year, all seven Boeing 777-300ERs will have rejoined the airline’s working fleet.

Air New Zealand plans to focus the 342-seat three-class Boeing 777-300ER on routes between New Zealand and North America. By the end of the year, the airline will be flying to Vancouver (YVR), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Houston (IAH), Chicago (ORD), and New York (JFK).

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