Air New Zealand's story began in April 1940 when it's forerunner airline, Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL) was incorporated. TEAL began its first trans-Tasman services with flying boats, and over the years steadily expanded the size and scope of its operations and the extent of its international network. The route network was expanded from Australia and the Pacific to Asia, the USA, the UK and Europe. In October 1953 TEAL became jointly owned by the New Zealand and Australian Governments, and in April 1961 the New Zealand Government assumed full ownership.
In addition to TEAL operating international services, the New Zealand Government established NZ National Airways Corporation (NAC) which began operations in 1947. NAC was the primary operator of domestic air services between major centres and provincial cities and towns, and along with TEAL would later form the basis for today's Air New Zealand.
In April 1965 TEAL was renamed Air New Zealand Limited, and continued to operate international services only. 1965 also heralded the beginning of the jet era for Air New Zealand, with the arrival in July of the first DC-8 jet aircraft. The new jets meant that Air New Zealand could expand its operations to North America and Asia, becoming a truly international airline. In 1973, Air New Zealand also introduced the larger DC-10. The airline operated with a combined DC-8 and DC-10 fleet until the 1980s, when the larger Boeing 747 began to replace the older jets. The first 747 arrived in May 1981.
In the meantime, NAC's early piston-engined aircraft such as the DC3, were replaced by turbo-props, and in 1968 the jet age for domestic aviation was ushered in by the Boeing 737.
Thirteen years after TEAL was renamed Air New Zealand, Air New Zealand and NAC merged in April 1978, forming the first New Zealand carrier to offer both international and domestic services.
In April 1989, the New Zealand Government privatised Air New Zealand through the outright sale of the company for NZ$660 million, to a consortium comprising Brierley Investments, Qantas, Japan Airlines and American Airlines. Air New Zealand shares were listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange as "A" shares (which could only be held by New Zealand nationals) in October 1989 and "B" shares (no restriction on nationality of ownership) in December 1991.
During the 1980s and 1990s Air New Zealand continued to expand its international network, particularly to Asian cities like Taipei, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.
In September 1996, Air New Zealand announced a conditional agreement to purchase 50% of Ansett Holdings for a total outlay of A$475 million. Ansett Holdings owned 100% of Ansett Australia (the domestic airline) and 49% of Ansett International.
In February 2000 Air New Zealand announced the conditional purchase of the remaining 50% of Ansett Holdings Limited from News Corporation Limited for A$580m,