Air New Zealand Reveals Fate of 777 Fleet

Kiwi flag carrier unveils its plans for its Boeing 777 fleet as it continues to deal with the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Air New Zealand has grounded its Boeing 777 fleet until at least September 2021 due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.

In May the airline removed the majority of its seven-strong 777-300 roster from service until the end of the 2020 calendar year. At the same time, the company also signalled it was unlikely to fly its eight 777-200 aircraft in the foreseeable future and began preparing to send these into long term storage overseas.

The Kiwi flag carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 777-300ER in December 2010. Aviation Network/Simon Gregory

Four of Air New Zealand’s 777-300 aircraft will now be stored in Victorville in the Californian desert, while the remaining three will stay in Auckland where they are able to be returned to service if required. The airline’s 777-200 aircraft will be sent to long-term storage facilities in both Roswell, New Mexico and Victorville, California from later this month.

The North American locations were chosen for their dry conditions and existing storage facilities which will ensure aircraft are kept in a condition that will enable them to be returned to service within six to eight weeks if required.

The Auckland-based carrier accepted its first Boeing 777-200ER in October 2005. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Carrie Hurihanganui, Air New Zealand chief operating officer says the recovery of the airline’s international network post-COVID-19 is now looking to be slower than initially thought.

“The recent resurgence of cases in New Zealand is a reminder that this is a highly volatile situation. We are not anticipating a return to any 777 flying until September 2021 at the earliest, which is why we have made the decision to ground the fleet until at least this time next year,” she added.

The 777s are the largest aircraft in Air New Zealand’s fleet and have operated most the airline’s long-haul routes over the past 15 years. The firm’s international schedule will be operated by the more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, along with Airbus A320s and A320/21neos for trans-Tasman and Pacific Island routes.