Air New Zealand’s non-stop flight from New York to Auckland has been forced to make an unscheduled touchdown in Fiji in its first week of service.
Flight NZ1 has been redirected to Nadi International Airport, according to Flightradar24. The flight was due to depart New York’s John F Kennedy Airport at 9.55pm on Thursday, local time, but was delayed until 11.31pm.
It is now due to arrive in Fiji around 7.30am on Saturday, local time, and is expected to arrive in Auckland at 11.15am.
Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer David Morgan confirmed the flight would make a “short stop” in Fiji due to “unusually strong winds in its flight path”.
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“The forecast headwinds en route are significantly stronger than usual – stronger than our 12 months of modeling and other data stretching back much further,” Morgan said.
“Refueling in Nadi is our standard contingency plan for these circumstances and has also been used in previous years for other routes on our network. While these sorts of headwinds are very rare, they do happen, and we’ve planned for it. “
Morgan said all 210 customers had been advised of the delay prior to departure, and the airline was working to rebook any onward travel.
There was no cargo onboard the southbound route from New York, and seats had been intentionally left unsold to manage weight.
“We will have NZ1 home safe and sound – just a little later than expected.”
The flight is only the third service from New York since the eagerly-anticipated route launched last weekend, and the route’s second snag in a week. The first flight from New York, which arrived in Auckland on Monday, saw about 65 passengers’ bags left behind in the Big Apple.
Air New Zealand chief operating officer Alex Marren said airline had offloaded the bags so the flight could take on more fuel to go around a forecast cyclone.
Aviation commentator Irene King earlier this week predicted the flight may sometimes need to make a stopover in destinations like Hawaii or Fiji in adverse weather conditions.
This was because the Boeing 787-9 used on the service was nearing the upper limit of its flight envelope on the non-stop route, which has a scheduled flight time of 17 hours and 35 minutes.
King said Air New Zealand should make it clear to travelers that its “non-stop” New York service might sometimes involve baggage delays or stopovers.
“I do think they have to pick up the customer service messaging about the potential risks,” she said.