Continental Airlines has announced their first planned route for its 787 Dreamliner deliveries: Houston – Auckland, New Zealand. It will be the carrier’s first route form the mainland USA to Oceania. It will also be a great test of the theory behind the 787 design – service on long, thin routes as that is a pretty good description of the IAH-AKL market: long and thin.
Sure, there will be some connecting traffic along the way and probably some cargo, too, but the O/D traffic flying is likely to be rather low. Lots of folks had been hoping for a return to Sydney rather than Auckland but the move makes sense based on connectivity with Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand in Auckland.
There’s also the pesky issues of a potential merger with United Airlines and hopes of no further delays on the delivery schedule for the 787. But assuming those do not get in the way it looks like Auckland is on the route map for Continental now. Service is expected to start in November 2011 and tickets will go on sale in December 2010 at the earliest.
The news does come at an interesting time. Yes, Continental is the “first airline in the world to formally announce specific, initial route plans for its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet” and the press release has some rosy language from CEO and announced UA/CO CEO Jeff Smisek about “the emphasis we place on continuing to expand Houston’s role in domestic and international aviation. This hub has ongoing growth opportunities because it has a strategic location, space for expansion, support from the community….” But it is also being announced almost 18 months in advance and 6 months before they can even sell tickets. Where is the value there, other than to distract regulators from the fact that the merger is going to move a major company headquarters out of Houston?
So the optimist here says “Horray for the new route!” while the pessimist is wondering if it really will ever happen. I’ll try to remember to report back in 18 months when the time comes.