NZ map

Surrounded by the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world. In the past, this hindered the development of a tourist industry and made New Zealand somewhat a backwater nation.


With mass shootings in the USA too frequently hitting the headlines as well as the terror attacks in France, Germany and Turkey spreading fear across Europe, New Zealand’s geographic isolation has become a draw card for those wanting a peaceful place to both live in and visit. Increasing numbers of European and American tourists are looking to New Zealand for a holiday where they can feel safe.  Until recently, Americans had no idea about New Zealand. When I lived in New York, many locals thought it was somewhere in Ireland or Australia. (yes! honestly!) With the popularity of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ films, New Zealand became recognized as a country with its own unique scenery and lifestyle. The singer Lorde has also helped raise interest in her country. Someone who can win so many singing awards must come from an interesting place worthy of further investigation.


Before the advent of regular air travel in the 1960s,  the only way to reach new Zealand was by a long sea voyage. Young Kiwis wanting to have their overseas experience, referred to simply as ‘The Big OE’, would spend a month sailing from Auckland or Wellington to Southampton usually via the Panama Canal. Although the voyage was itself an adventure with its nightly dancing and drinking sessions, the four weeks it took to reach Europe reinforced the great distance New Zealand was from ‘the real world’. Today, it takes 25 hours to reach England with Air New Zealand’s flight via Los Angeles. Cathy Pacific via Hong Kong, Emirates via Dubai and Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur, all take roughly 27 hours to connect Auckland to London.

American and United Airlines have just introduced direct flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Auckland competing with Air New Zealand who had previously been the only airline to fly the 12 hour non- stop flight between the USA and New Zealand. South America is also connected by direct flights. LAN Airlines flies to Auckland from Chile and Air New Zealand and Aerolineas Argentinas fly between Argentina and Auckland. In the past two years, a number of Asian airlines have introduced direct flights from major cities in China, Korea and Japan to Auckland. These also take around 12 hours.

Most of the Pacific Island nations have direct flights to Auckland.  These take around 3 to 4 hours depending on the island.


In March this year, Emirates introduced the world’s longest non-stop service. The Dubai to Auckland flight takes 16 hours 5 minutes. I have flown the route between the UAE and NZ on a number of occasions when I worked in Dubai. At the time, the flights all stopped in Sydney. It was a bother having to get off the aircraft and go through the airport formalities so the direct flights will be easier on the passenger. In December this year, Qatar Airways will introduce an even longer non-stop flight when it links Doha directly with Auckland taking over 18 hours in the air. The 14,543 kilometres between the two cities will be as far as any current commercial aircraft can fly non-stop.


Flying west is easier on the body as it is moving with the earth’s spin. Kiwis in the know fly to Europe via Asia but return to New Zealand through the USA thus travelling with the earth’s rotation. It’s less of a strain on the body that way and jet lag is noticeably reduced.

Australia is our closest neighbour. Sydney and Brisbane are just three hours away with 12 flights daily between Sydney and Auckland. In fact, Auckland is two hours flight time closer to Australia’s largest city than Perth in Western Australia is.

Flying in a crowded aircraft might not be as much fun as a sea voyage, but it does compress the time dramatically and remove the ‘tyranny of distance’ which kept New Zealand away from the main flow of life in the rest of the world.


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  26. ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ – now that’s a terrific sub title :). I
    have flown to South America from NZ, but it wasn’t a direct
    flight. I had an overnight stop in Pape’ete. The next day I
    landed and stayed a couple hours in Easter Island and then
    onto Santiago. While I like direct flights, I don’t mind too much
    the stop over trips. I can say I have been in that country, then.
    In 1996 I flew Garuda airlines to India from New Zealand.
    It was the cheeped flight, however I took off 5 times and landed

    Now can I remember all the places? Auckland, New Zealand to
    Sydney, Australia to Bali, Indonesia to Jakarta, Singapore and
    finally Chennai, India. My travel was not yet over though.
    The following day after landing in Chennai I took a 13 hour train
    ride to Visakhapatnam or Vizag for short. That was one hell of
    a journey.

    ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ – Very apt description indeed.

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