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Air New Zealand can trace its history to the formation of Tasman Empire Airways Limited in 1940. TEAL was established to enable air links by flying boat between New Zealand and Australia and the neighbouring Pacific Islands. TEAL was a joint venture between the New Zealand government, Union Airways, BOAC and QANTAS. Services commenced on April 30 1940 with Empire flying boat ZK-AMA departing Auckland for Sydney. This service initially operated on a three times fortnightly basis.

By 1944 services had doubled to three times weekly despite a third Empire flying boat having been diverted for the war effort. The Empire flying boats were soon replaced by converted military Shorts Sunderlands which became known as the Tasman Class. These enabled the airline to gear up to a daily service for the 1946 season.

On April 1 1947 the New Zealand government formed New Zealand National Airways Corporation (NAC) to be the prime Domestic airline. However it soon expanded to provide flying boat services to Fiji, Tonga, Western Samoa and the Cook Islands. These routes were taken over by TEAL in 1949.

In 1954 the British government withdrew support from British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines (BCPA) leading to three DH-6 aircraft transferring to TEAL. Once  BCPA was fully liquidated BOAC and QANTAS transferred their interests in TEAL to the Australian government, making the Australian and New Zealand governments equal partners in the airline.

This changed in 1961 when the New Zealand government paid $1.62 million to take TEAL into sole New Zealand ownership. Four years later the decision was made to re-name the carrier Air New Zealand.

TEAL entered the jet age on July 20 1967 when ZK-NKA, the first of three DC-8s was delivered direct from Long Beach, CA. The type entered service on 3 October 1967 on the Christchurch - Sydney route.

On November 24 1967 the new Auckland International Airport opened.

In 1967 Air New Zealand took a 20% holding in Polynesian Airlines.

On December 14 1967 DC8 services commenced on the Auckland - Nadi - Honolulu - Los Angeles route.

In 1968 Air New Zealand helped form Cook Islands Airways. During the same year the first three Boeing 737-200s joined the fleet.

The first widebody jets were introduced in 1973 with the first of eight DC-10s introduced on the Auckland - Sydney route on February 3. On April 2 the DC-10 began operations on the prime Auckland - Los Angeles service.

In 1974 an aircraft sharing service with British Airways was commenced with Air New Zealand’s DC-10s operating Auckland - Los Angeles before continuing to London as a British Airways flight. This year saw the DC-8 displaced from North American services with the arrival of the final DC-10s.

The first DC-8 left the fleet in 1976 with the DC-10s beginning direct Auckland - Singapore flights.

Antarctic sightseeing flights with the DC-10 commenced in 1977. Over the night of December 15-16 1977 Air New Zealand moved its entire operation to a new International Terminal building at Auckland.

In 1978 Air New Zealand and NAC merged under the Air New Zealand name with a fleet comprising the following aircraft:






The DC-10s started direct Auckland - Hong Kong services this year. Also during the peak Northern Summer Season they operated 5 x London - Miami and 3 x London - Montreal services per week on behalf of British Airways.

1979 was a difficult and tragic year for the airline with Fokker F27-500 ZK-NFC crashing into Manukau Harbour on February 17 killing two crew.

On June 7 all DC-10s worldwide were grounded following withdrawal of the type’s Certification by the US FAA. Air New Zealand hired a Pan-Am Boeing 747 to operate between Auckland and Los Angeles and a Flying Tigers DC-8 freighter to move freight. The DC-10s were permitted to start flying again on June 22 on Australia, Pacific Islands and Far East services and on July 14 to the USA. Worse was to follow on 28 November when DC-10 ZK-NZP operating Antarctic sightseeing flight TE901 crashed into Mount Erebus killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.

On 12 June 1980 Air New Zealand placed an order for five Rolls Royce powered Boeing 747-200s. The first of these, ZK-NZV was accepted on May 27 1981 and arrived at Auckland on May 29 1981. ZK-NZW following on June 10 with ZK-NZV entering service on the Auckland - Sydney route on June 11.

On August 25 1982 Air New Zealand commenced service to London in its own right with a twice weekly 747-200 service routing Auckland - Papeete - Los Angeles - London Gatwick.

With the 747-200s entering the fleet the remaining DC-10 fleet was quickly disposed of with the final DC-10 service arriving in Auckland from Hong Kong on November 2 1982.

On April 1 1984 the London service started flying direct between Auckland and Los Angeles.

The first Boeing 767, 200 series ZK-NBA entered service on September 10 1985 routing Seattle - Nadi - Wellington. The aircraft entered service on September 30 on the Wellington - Sydney route.

1986 saw further Boeing 767-200 arrivals plus the Boeing 737-200 fleet being replaced by newer 737-200 Advanced models. London services increased to three per week as the 767 took over more of the 747-200’s Pacific Island flying.

A new London service commenced in 1987 routing Auckland - Papeete - Dallas-Fort Worth - London Gatwick northbound and London Gatwick - Los Angeles - Papeete - Auckland southbound. The Dallas-Fort Worth route survived for only two years. The same year one of the 747-200s was involved in an attempted hi-jacking in Nadi as part of a military coup.  

The Tasman alliance with QANTAS ended in 1997 and QANTAS divested its interest in Air New Zealand in 1997 with US investors taking the 19.9% stake. Air New Zealand moved closer to United Airlines this year with an agreement to codeshare on up to 130 flights per week.  

Smoking was banned on all Air New Zealand flights this year and wine and beer service was introduced on domestic Boeing 737 services.

Codeshare agreement commenced with Singapore Airlines this year with Christchurch - Singapore services operated by Air New Zealand with Singapore Airlines codeshare and Auckland - Singapore operated by Singapore Airlines with Air New Zealand codeshare. Air New Zealand also codeshared on Singapore Airlines’ Singapore - Bangkok services with direct services to Bangkok dropped.

Boeing 737-300s commenced operation on Tasman services from Wellington and Christchurch in 1998. Auckland - Los Angeles - London Heathrow services moved to daily operation. The intention to join Star Alliance was announced and increased codeshare agreements with Star Alliance carriers began to be implemented.

In March 1999 Air New Zealand and Ansett Australia joined Star Alliance, becoming the seventh and eighth members. During this same year the airline began upgrading its Domestic equipment with Boeing 737-300s replacing earlier Boeing 737-200s.

The five Boeing 747-200s were sold to Virgin Atlantic and delivered to the UK carrier in the period March 1999 and January 2001. With the downturn following the 9/11 attacks these quickly departed the Virgin Atlantic fleet.

In February 2000 Air New Zealand took the extraordinary decision to purchase the remaining 50% of Ansett Australia from New Corporation for A$580 million. This was followed in April 2000 by Singapore Airlines taking an 8.3% stake in Air New Zealand.

The Beech 1900D was ordered in 2001 for Domestic Operations by Eagle Airways. The QANTAS Franchise Tasman Pacific Airlines, which had operated Domestically in New Zealand with BAe146s went into receivership this year, prompting Air New Zealand to operate extra flights and Freedom Air to begin domestic New Zealand operations. Four of the BAe146s are leased by Air New Zealand for the additional flights. By the end of the year only one BAe146 remained in service and the last Boeing 737-200s left the fleet.

The 9/11 attacks leave one Boeing 747-400 stranded in London, one in Los Angeles and two to turn back to New Zealand whilst en route to Los Angeles.

On September 14 2001 Ansett Australia was grounded by the administrators. The New Zealand government ruled out any assistance. Ansett permanently ceased all operations of March 4 2002 with the New Zealand government providing an NZ$885 million loan to keep Air New Zealand in operation.

Cheap domestic fares that could only be booked via the Air New Zealand website were launched in 2002. Later in the year Domestic services moved to an all-Economy “Express Class” service.

Fifteen Airbus A320s were ordered in July 2002 to replace Boeing 767-200s and Boeing 737-300s on Trans-Tasman and Pacific services.

An engine failure on Boeing 767-219ER ZK-NCB departing Brisbane as NZ132 on 8 December 2002 led to Air New Zealand caused the 767-200 fleet to be temporarily grounded and Boeing to be contracted to conduct a review of engineering operations.

A deal with United Airlines in 2003 saw United withdraw from the Auckland - Los Angeles route with Air New Zealand increasing service from fourteen to seventeen per week. In turn Air New Zealand withdrew from the Sydney - Los Angeles route leaving that to United Airlines.

The first A320 arrived on September 15 and the Domestic “Express Class” service was extended to Tasman operations, although a small Business Class cabin remained. Domestically Air Nelson introduced the first 33 seat Saab-340.

June 2004 saw an order with Boeing for eight Boeing 777-200ERs and four of the the B7E7, which became the Boeing 787-800. This order was subsequently amended to the larger Boeing 787-900.

Direct Auckland - San Francisco and Christchurch - Los Angeles services commenced this year. The Christchurch - Los Angeles service was short-lived.

The “Express” product was rolled out to flights to Fiji.

The New Zealand High Court rejected Air New Zealand and QANTAS’ appeal for a Tasman Alliance.

On 16 July 2005 the first Dash 8-Q300 for Air Nelson was accepted at the Bombardier plant in Toronto.

Boeing 747-441 ZK-SUI launched the airline’s new International product on July 19 2005. This featured flat beds in a herringbone configuration in Business Class with seats licenced from Virgin Atlantic, a new Premium Economy cabin and Personal IFE in Economy for the first time.

In August 2007 an order for five Boeing 777-300ERs was announced with these to replace the remaining Boeing 747-400s.

A programme was announced in September 2008 to fit winglets to the remaining fleet of Boeing 767-300ERs. These 11 foot high wingtip fences improve fuel consumption in the cruise dramatically.

In November 2009 a further order for 14 A320s was announced. These are to be fitted with the new “Sharklet” wingtip and will displace the existing A320s from Tasman and Pacific services, with those aircraft in turn replacing the Boeing 737-300 on Domestic routes.

The Auckland - Tongatapu - Apia - Los Angeles Island hopping service was discontinued on 24 January 2011.

The Boeing 777-300ER was introduced onto the Auckland - Los Angeles - London Heathrow route in 2011 with some revolutionary products on board. The much heralded SpaceSeat Premium Economy cabin got off to an inauspicious start with passengers ironically complaining of a lack of space. The aircraft were quickly amended to have one row of seats removed from this cabin in order to increase legroom.

An alliance on Trans-Tasman and Domestic services was commenced with Virgin Australia in 2011. Air New Zealand codes appeared on Virgin Australia’s Australian Domestic and Trans-Tasman services with Virgin Australia codes appearing on Air New Zealand Trans-Tasman and New Zealand Domestic flights.

In 1988 the New Zealand government announced its intention to privatise Air New Zealand. In April 1989 this was concluded with the airline becoming owned by American Airlines (7.5%), Japan Airlines (7.5%), QANTAS (20%) and Brierley Investments (65%).

Codeshares were agreed with QANTAS on trans-Tasman services in 1989 on six weekly QANTAS and four weekly Air New Zealand services. Codeshare agreement was also reached with Japan Airlines on Air New Zealand’s weekly Christchurch - Auckland - Tokyo Narita - Christchurch service.

The first Boeing 747-400 arrived on 16 December 1989 but was immediately leased to Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong. Further co-operation with QANTAS saw Air New Zealand commence a weekly 767-200 Auckland - Adelaide service with QANTAS buying a guaranteed number of seats on each flight.

On 28 October 1990 Air New Zealand switched its flight code from the old TEAL TE code to the now familiar NZ code. Further co-operation with British Airways saw round the world tickets permitted using the connections between the two airlines at Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. A similar arrangement was made with SAS Scandinavian Airlines with connections at Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo Narita and Los Angeles. The second Boeing 747-400 (ZK-NBT) arrived on November 2 with the aircraft entering service on the Auckland - Sydney route on November 6.

In 1991 the company was split into six business units; International, Domestic, Cargo, Catering, Engineering and Information. Air New Zealand fully took over Mount Cook Airlines this year with Domestic operations moving under the Air New Zealand National banner. Regional carriers Air Nelson and Eagle Air start using the Air New Zealand Link brand name.

Boeing 747-419 ZK-NBS returned from its Cathay Pacific lease and entered service on 11 February 1991. Older Boeing 747-219 ZK-NZZ departed on February 28 on a 20 month lease to Malaysia Airlines.

Co-operation with other airlines increased with expansion of the Tasman alliance with QANTAS and new Air New Zealand codeshares on QANTAS flights from Sydney to Los Angeles and QANTAS codeshares on Air New Zealand services from Melbourne via Auckland to Los Angeles, co-operation with Canadian Airlines on routes to Vancouver and Toronto, a new service to Nagoya in conjunction with Japan Airlines and a deal whereby American Airlines bought cargo capacity on Air New Zealand flights to Honolulu.

The first Boeing 767-300ER ZK-NCE arrived on June 15 1991 and was joined by ZK-NCF on February 17 1992.

The American Airlines stake in Air New Zealand was sold in 1992. Conversion of the Domestic Boeing 737-200 fleet with hush kits to enable them to comply with noise regulations at Wellington began in 1992. Aircraft leased out this year included Boeing 747-219 ZK-NZX going to Malaysia Airlines, Boeing 767-219 ZK-NBI to Air Aruba and Boeing 767-219 ZK-NBJ heading to LOT Polish Airlines.

The third Boeing 747-419 ZK-NBU arrived direct from Seattle on September 15 1992.

New rights for Air New Zealand to operate flights beyond Australia were granted in 1992 leading to Auckland - Brisbane - Taipei and Auckland - Brisbane - Bangkok services being launched with the 767s.

Leases out in 1993 saw Boeing 767-200 ZK-NBJ return to LOT Polish Airlines, Boeing 747-200 ZK-NZZ go to Garuda Indonesia for Hadj flights, Boeing 747-200 ZK-NZX go to Virgin Atlantic in the UK and Boeing 747-200 ZK-NZY go to Air Pacific in Fiji.

A seventh Business Unit, Terminal Services commenced in 1993 dealing with ground handling.

The third Boeing 767-300ER ZK-NCG arrived on August 16 1993. Services commenced to Seoul although Kuala Lumpur was dropped from the network.

1994 saw Air New Zealand start to move away from QANTAS, reducing the number of codeshares on Tasman flights and commencing its own Sydney - Los Angeles services using Boeing 747-400s. Services were launched to the new Kansai Airport in Osaka with both direct services and Auckland - Brisbane - Osaka flights using 767s. Services were also increased and upguaged on routes to Honolulu and Los Angeles following Continental Airlines withdrawal.

Air New Zealand gained access to Heathrow airport in London and serviced switched from London Gatwick to London Heathrow on November 24 1994.

The Japan Airlines stake was sold to Brierley Investments in December 1994.

Sydney - Los Angeles services were increased from three to five per week in  1995 along with an extra Auckland - Los Angeles flight making eight per week. HM Queen Elizabeth II arrived into New Zealand aboard NZ1 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference this year, the first time she had ever travelled on a commercial flight. New services commencing this year were Auckland - Fukuoka and Auckland - Sydney - Bangkok.

Domestically Mount Cook Airline began replacing its HS748s with ATR72s, Air New Zealand took a 100% stake in Air Nelson and Domestic Boeing 737-200s began seasonal Queenstown - Sydney flights.

Freedom Air, a charter carrier operating across the Tasman, was formed this year with a leased 757. This was in response to the upstart Kiwi Air.


Freedom Air expanded rapidly into 1996, replacing the 757 with 737-300s and increasing service from Dunedin, Palmerston North and Hamilton. In late April 1996 a new livery was introduced featuring the Pacific Wave on the fuselage, this rebranding also extended to the aircraft interiors.

In October 1996 Air New Zealand took a 50% holding in Ansett Australia, becoming sole owner of Ansett New Zealand at the same time. Ansett was known to be struggling with underinvestment and an ageing fleet. The same year saw Air New Zealand form an alliance with United Airlines of the US with Air New Zealand codes appearing on United’s US Domestic and Pacific services and United codes appearing on Air New Zealand’s Pacific and Trans-Tasman services.