80 years ago today, Tasman Empire Airlines (now known as Air New Zealand) flew its first flight, taking 9 passengers from Auckland to Sydney in Short Empire flying boat ZK-AMA (seen below).
As an overseas (literally) airline serving a number of small destinations, TEAL initially purely flew flying boats. Although they later bought land based aircraft (DC6s, DC8s, and Electras), they were the world’s last longhaul flying boat operator, with the glamorous trans-Polynesia Coral Route surviving into the 1960s.
TEAL was renamed Air New Zealand in 1965 after being nationalised in 1961. In the 1970s they subsumed government owned internal carrier NAC (National Airways Corporation), and in the 90s took over troubled Australian carrier Ansett - who they failed to save: Ansett went bust a few years later. In an interesting co-incidence, Ansett had been the last operator of big flying boats in this part of the world, operating a Short Sandringham on the 500 mile Sydney to Lord Howe Island route until 1974.
Air New Zealand had planned a big PR push to celebrate its 80th, but in current circumstances (they had a day last week where they had only 175 bookings across their entire network) they’re feeding out the historical material in dribs and drabs.