27 Feb 2012

Air NZ investigates potential for flights to South America

7:26 am on 27 February 2012

Air New Zealand is dipping its toe in the South American market with a charter flight but will closely watch the developments in its aviation sector before scheduling regular flights there.

The national airline's half year profits slipped more than 60%, due to weak long-haul markets and soaring fuel costs.

It also warned its full-year profits are unlikely to match those reported last year as trading conditions, especially in its long-haul markets, remain uncertain.

But the airline did announce its first foray into South America, with a flight in September using its black Boeing 777-300.

The charter flight will be aimed at All Blacks fans travelling to Buenos Aires for the team's first game against Argentina in the expanded Four Nations competition.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe says the airline is very interested in South America as a potential route in its global network.

He says the company hasn't yet made a decision about its overall strategy for South America.

Mr Fyfe says the Brazilian airline TAM is about to go through a merger with Chile's LAN and Air New Zealand wants to see which alliance the new airline LATAM ends up in before finalising its preferred strategy.

Air New Zealand recently announced direct flights to Bali, and Mr Fyfe says more routes will be announced in the coming weeks as the airline strengthens its Pacific rim network.