'New Zealand's International Airline'

Airline History

The Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) story began in 1939 when the New Zealand, United Kingdom and Australian Governments reached agreement on the constitution of forming a new airline company. The Union Steam Ship Company accepted initial responsibility for the three Short S.30 Empire class flying boats which Union Airways had ordered for the Tasman service, and in August 1939, the incorporation of TEAL was sufficiently advanced for ZK-AMA "Aotearoa" to fly to New Zealand.

On 26 April 1940, Tasman Empire Airways Limited) was registered in Wellington as a limited liability company. Original holdings were: New Zealand Government 20%, Union Airways 19%, BOAC 38% and Qantas 23%.


The inaugural Auckland-Sydney flight commenced on 30 April 1940 with  ZK-AMA "Aotearoa", commanded by Captain J W Burgess with 10 passengers. This service was scheduled weekly and covered the 1200 miles of Tasman Sea in 9 hours.  


The Auckland to Sydney route was so popular that by 1944, TEAL was operating three return flights a week across the Tasman.

Short Empire boat 'Awarua' ZK-AMC

Short Empire boat 'Awarua' ZK-AMC in the 1940's

On 17 July 1946 TEAL took delivery of the first of its Tasman-class flying-boats, ZKAMB "Tasman". Delivery flight commanded by BOAC Senior Captain D Travers from London to Sydney, and TEAL Senior Captain A V Jury from Sydney to Auckland. The Sandringham flying boats were converted military Sunderlands and shortened the Sydney-Auckland route to 8 hours.

During the 1946-47 summer season, TEAL increased its Trans Tasman service to seven return flights a week.


Tasman-class flying-boats were grounded on 23 February 1948 because of engine-cooling trouble form the Pratt & Whitney engines. They remained out of service until 17 June 1948, and were then subject to certain restrictions in passenger-carrying capacity. Meantime, schedules were maintained by DC4 landplanes chartered from TAA.

In 1949 TEAL bought Short Solent mk-4 45-seater flying boats as replacements for the Sandringhams which further shortened the Sydney-Auckland Tasman Sea route to a mere 5 and a half hours. The Solents were flown until 15 September 1960.

Short S.45 Solent boat ‘Ararangi' ZK-AMM showing the 1950s TEAL livery

In 1950 TEAL took over the overseas 'coral' services from New Zealand National Airways Corporation, who had flown weekly flying-boat services from Auckland to Fiji with twice-weekly extensions to Tonga, Western Samoa and the Cook Islands using Sandringham flying boats. The Norfolk route was finally transferred from NZNAC to TEAL in 1955.

This 'coral' route continued until 1960 when a new airport was finished in Tahiti allowing TEAL to fly Douglas DC-6 aircraft. The DC-6 landplanes were previously introduced in May of 1954 and came from the QANTAS takeover of BCPA who owned the DC-6 fleet. At this time Australia took over the United Kingdom's 20 percent interest in TEAL giving them an equal 50 percent.

In December of 1959 TEAL purchased three Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprops although the New Zealand TEAL owners did not want the aircraft. It was pushed on them by the Australians and because of this New Zealand purchased the Australians' 50 percent of TEAL and became fully New Zealand government owned in 1961.

One of TEAL's Electas in its new identity

TEAL's first L-188 Electra 'Aotearoa' ZK-TEA in its first Air NZ livery

The effect of Australia no longer having a stake in TEAL was an immediate competition on the Tasman route between QANTAS and TEAL although as both airlines used the Electra on the route they initially pooled the aircraft.

In 1965 TEAL entered the Jet-Age when it purchased three Douglas DC-8 jets for the prestige services. TEAL was renamed Air New Zealand later that year.

Air New Zealand's current branding

Coming full circle NZNAC, now called National Airways Corporation, was brought into Air New Zealand in 1978 giving ANZ a full domestic and overseas coverage. These two New Zealander airlines had worked hand in hand since the end of the war and finally joined to become New Zealand's national carrier.


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