Air New Zealand eyes Asian growth markets

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Asia will become a bigger part of Air New Zealand's growth strategy for the next few years, with the airline looking to build its network to the region either by itself or through partner carriers.

Australia will remain the airline's "most significant" market, says CEO Rob Fyfe. However, the economic downturn in Europe, the USA and the UK - its other traditionally key markets - and the growth of countries such as China and India means that the airline has to realign its focus, he added in an interview.

"We will be looking for the right partners to work with in Asia. Codeshares are good, but we need partners with not just network but also the distribution in these markets. And we will be looking for multiple partners - Asia is a diverse region, and you have differences in network, travel patterns and customer requirements," he said.

The distance from New Zealand's hubs such as Auckland to these countries means that Air New Zealand has to also find third countries with either partners, or from which it can fly to its final destinations.

The airline, for example, has "spent a lot of time" thinking about how it can cater to the Indian market, especially since most of the traffic from the country comes via Singapore where Air New Zealand no longer flies to.

"We can't fly there direct and need to work out a partner on the ground and figure out an intermediary country - maybe Australia. We don't fly to Singapore anymore as Hong Kong was a more lucrative market, but we don't rule out returning there."

South America, he added, is more of a long-term strategy, especially since the traffic volumes are "not huge". Air New Zealand also does not have the aircraft with the range to reach the northern part of the continent, where tourist markets such as Brazil are located.

"This is more of a leisure market, so we have to make sure we have the right product and destinations before we proceed," he added.