Air New Zealand – Layover In Hawaii For Safety Reasons?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | January 9, 2021

Air New Zealand will add a Hawaii stop on the way from Auckland, to Los Angeles, so its pilots can have their layover there. And the thinking behind it is interesting.

Australia did very well in the pandemic, but New Zealand has reduced coronavirus cases to zero. They applied very strict travel rules to achieve it and whatever the criticism, it worked. However this means making some careful decisions about the way these countries deal with the outside world. And this includes Air New Zealand’s choice for where its pilots have their layovers.

Many other countries require arriving passengers to self-isolate – usually at home. New Zealand requires them to quarantine at pre-selected hotels, at their own expense (for non-New Zealanders), for two weeks. Few people are eligible to fly into the country anyway, and these measures reduce their numbers more. And Air New Zealand’s crews need to isolate during their layovers.

Travel Bubble – When Two Countries Are Doing Well

The airline operates two flights per week from Auckland to Los Angeles. They also operate several flights to San Francisco, for cargo. And they use Boeing 787s for both flights. Yes, Air New Zealand operates its passenger jets for cargo-only flights – and normally, they would layover in those US cities. But that presents the airline with a problem.


Air New Zealand’s New Layover Arrangements

California has not been doing well in the pandemic. Los Angeles in particular has one of the worst rates in the US. For this reason, Air New Zealand came up with a way to have its pilots have their layover elsewhere. And that’s Honolulu. This will add some time to the overall journey, having a marked effect on efficiency as well. But it gives the airline what it is after.

It works like this: a crew takes off from Auckland, landing in Honolulu. They have a three or four-day layover there, while another Air New Zealand crew boards the plane. They fly it to LA, the passengers disembark, and another group of passengers come on board. Then the same crew flies back to Honolulu, on the same day.

Air New Zealand – Layover In Hawaii For Safety Reasons?
Air New Zealand do cargo-only flights as well, from San Francisco

The distance from Los Angeles to Honolulu is a bit over 4,000km (2,500 miles). The Air New Zealand crews can do these two sectors comfortably, then return to Hawaii for their own three-day layover. At that point, another crew picks up the plane (and passengers) to return it to Auckland. Once there, they, too have to quarantine for two days, before a negative Covid-19 test finally releases them.


A Hit In Efficency For Safety Reasons

Of course Air New Zealand’s layover arrangement in Honolulu adds a lot of complexity to the trip. In terms of added distance, the difference is around 710km (440 miles). In reality it’s a bit less than that, because the non-stop flight would have to veer, for ETOPS reasons. But an extra descent, landing, take-off and climb, certainly knocks away some of the built-in efficiency of the Dreamliner.

If a three-day layover in Honolulu sounds nice for the Air New Zealand crews, you weren’t paying attention. The airline requires them to spend these three days in their hotel rooms. This would have been the case in Los Angeles, too. While in theory this should be safe, there have been cases where quarantining hotel guests cross-contaminated with staff.

On the contrary, Hawaii has one of the lowest infection rates in the US. While a layover in a Hawaii hotel must be more expensive than LA, Air New Zealand clearly thinks it’s justified. Like Australia, New Zealand are keen to see how the US and Europe will do with the vaccines, before deciding their future stances.



  • Air Tahiti used to do a stopover from Paris to Tahiti. (Bora Bora) via LAX Los Angeles for refueling.

    Since covid huge numbers in the USA last year 2020 , Air Tahiti from March to July , the LAX Los Angeles stopover was discontinued to not allow Americans to board legally because of the high number of infections.

    The only loophole was to do a stopover in Vancouver Canada where it’s actual the distance halfway point .

    Sadly Air Tahiti to avoid Americans finding a way to board this flight in YVR Vancouver, it wouldn’t allow Canadians to board so Americans couldn’t used the discrimination card.

    Many Canadians were very excited to see Air Tahiti but disappointed they couldn’t board a direct flight to Polynesia. There was a 247,000 hit interest by Canadians wanting to board this route. That refueling stopover was discontinued in mid July 2020, and return back to LAX .

    Happy to say because of the high numbers of infections in Los Angeles this month January 2021, Air Tahiti is now doing their halfway point refueling stop back in YVR Vancouver Canada.

    Canadians are hoping this will be a pickup and drop off for Canadians this year because of the high interest .plus many Canadians would take advantage of Air Tahiti to it’s opposite route to Paris in the spring/summer months.

    The direct Paris route is no longer done by Air Transat as the AT airline been been bought out by Air Canada 7 months ago and service is only only seasonal AirFrance once every two days in the summer.

    Air Tahiti could benefit a new route for pickup at YVR for the next ten years.

    Air Canada is notorious in creating new chartered airlines like Rouge in the past to do major price drop against new airlines wanting to do business in Canada .

    Air Canada Robert Milton was the first creator of almagation of global airlines as we know Star Alliance.this cause many smaller airlines to fail legally by this bully organization forcing Delta to create Skyteam And American Airline OneWorld .

    The day Air Canada goes bankrupt without Liberal Government interaction and handouts, Earth skies will have more National & Chartered airlines that will be more affordable and accessable to travel this small world we live in, that would allow small airlines like Air Tahiti and Hawaiian airlines to succeed outside their secured financial routes.

    I like to add with the disappearance of Air Canada in the future, I believe we would no longer see the Fake Airlines Award SkyTrax.

  • I am a New Zealander and I didn’t know about Air NZs layover in Hawaii so thankyou. Your reasoning for the layover makes sense. As a small correction there is no cost to returning NZers for the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days (with COVID tests on days 3 and 12). A few incoming people do have to pay and my recollection includes a group of Russian fisherman (I believe the company bringing them over paid), a film crew who were shooting here and some professional sports teams. Keeping COVID out of NZ has been very successful both socially and economically even though international tourism was very important to us.

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