OPINION: Our national carrier has been thoroughly outfoxed by its main rival Qantas, which announced a “scenic flight to nowhere” last week.
Was it popular? You bet, Qantas boss Alan Joyce said it was “probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history.” It was sold out in about 10 minutes.
The seven-hour journey will tour Queensland, New South Wales, Gold Coast, the Outback, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Great Barrier Reef.
And it was pure genius. Australians are keen to get back in the air, and many of them would have never seen the likes of Uluru, Byron Bay and the Sydney Harbour Bridge from above.
But, hold on. I don’t want to be disrespectful to our Australian cousins, but anyone who has flown over Australia will know there’s an astonishing amount of monotonous landscape between those locations.
Flat dirt. Flat dirt. Flat dirt. Flat dirt. Tree. Flat dirt.
You’d have more fun making origami out of your Qantas serviettes than looking out the window for some of the flight.
Nevertheless, the Aussie airline has done a spectacular job. The move will see a long haul 787 Dreamliner flying, a crew working, and most importantly, revenue; it’s charging up to A$3787 (NZ$4103) a seat, although most seats went for A$787 (NZ$850).
Here’s where my patriotic and unwavering love of New Zealand comes in. We have a hugely varied landscape in such a small space and one that Kiwis would be eager to see from the air.
Imagine a flight to Cape Reinga, Bay of Islands, the Poor Knights, Great Barrier Island, down the coast of the Coromandel, around Mt Ruapehu, over the Marlborough Sounds, down the spiny back of the Southern Alps to Aoraki/Mt Cook, before making a circuit of Stewart Island. Then you could come back over Queenstown, up through the glacier lakes before a quick trip out to the Chatham Islands and back to Auckland with a flyby of the Harbour Bridge.
What a journey. It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for Kiwis, and frankly, would be much more scenic than the Qantas flight.
It begs the obvious question: why isn’t Air New Zealand already doing it?
In recent months, the national carrier has lost its innovative edge. It’s in Covid-19 crisis mode and is being defined by a narrative out of its control. Sure, it’s the worst crisis in aviation in history. But that doesn’t preclude it from thinking outside the box. It recently announced it would be storing its remaining 777 fleet until September 2021 at the earliest, why didn’t it offer farewell scenic flights around New Zealand?
Could it list its business class meals on UberEats, and deliver them with Air New Zealand pyjamas for a night in?
Before the latest Auckland Covid-19 outbreak, domestic travel was going gangbusters. Could it look at new routes, even an “overseas” flight to the Chatham Islands?
Could the airline offer a business class domestic “escape” service, by picking up customers in limos, as Emirates does for international flights?
Could it make a Koru Club in its spare office space, and set up the world’s most luxurious coworking venue?
The national carrier was world-renowned for innovation, and now it needs to apply some of that thinking to the Covid-19 world. Forget the Qantas ‘flight to nowhere.’ It could start by offering the ‘world’s best scenic flight.’
Would you buy a flight to nowhere from Air New Zealand? What would you like to see? Let us know in the comments.