US carrier Continental has announced what it says is the first confirmed route for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with a daily service (five-times weekly during the winter season) between Houston and Auckland, beginning in November 2011.
The new service is significant for a number of reasons. Aside from being the first confirmed Dreamliner route (even though other carriers including ANA and Qatar Airways are due to take delivery of their 787 aircraft before Continental), it will also make Continental the only US carrier to operate a route between the US and New Zealand.
The route is due to commence on November 16, 2011, and Continental has already released the timings, with opportunities for connections at both ends. The outbound flight will depart Houston at 2110 during the winter season (2130 during the summer), arriving in Auckland two days later at 0655 (0510 during the summer), with the return l;eg leaving New Zealand at 1755 (1540 for the summer season), landing back in the US at 1155 (1150 during the summer) the same day.
These timings are premiliminary, subject to government approval for the route, and tickets will not be available for the new route until “later this year”.
Currently only Air New Zealand and Qantas offer direct flights between New Zealand and North America, and neither of these carriers serve Houston. Continental expects the route to benefit from connecting traffic at both ends, with fellow Star Alliance carrier Air New Zealand offering 20 domestic destinations from Auckland and seven routes to Australia, while additional traffic flows through Continental’s Houston hub are expected from the forthcoming merger with United. The route will also give those on round-the-world tickets a new option out of the US.
Continental has 25 Dreamliners on order, with the first due for delivery in August 2011. The aircraft will be fitted with a total of 228 seats, including 36 fully-flat Business First seats. Business Traveller will be reviewing the carrier's new Business First product in the forthcoming print edition.
For more information visit continental.com.
Report by Mark Caswell