Air New Zealand is targeting new partnerships with other carriers as a cost-effective way to expand its network, although it is still looking to grow its own services in the key North American market.

There are “discussions [occurring] with a number of other airlines,” says Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe during discussion of the airline’s fiscal 2012 results. While he would not reveal which carriers these are, he says “you can expect to see more – and potentially some quite significant – alliances and relationships established in the next 12 months.”

The carrier views such partnerships as “critical to our future growth,” Fyfe says. He notes that adding new long-haul aircraft is challenging from a balance sheet perspective, so “being able to partner with other airlines and utilize their equipment and capacity … does allow us to grow revenue and the reach of our network in a capital-efficient manner.

Air New Zealand’s new partnership with All Nippon Airways has been “tremendously successful,” says Fyfe. Over the last 3-4 months “the first green shoots of growth” have been returning to the Japan-New Zealand market since the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011.

The carrier is working to expand its strategic partnership with Virgin Australia, and the two airlines are examining ways to develop the North American market for dual-destination travelers to Australia and New Zealand.

Air New Zealand executives have previously expressed interest in adding new services or destinations to the U.S., although Fyfe says the focus at the moment is on expanding capacity on existing routes.

The airline has added a few additional weekly flights to Los Angeles, boosting this route to 15-16 flights a week. It also wants to build its San Francisco service to daily frequency in peak season, and increase its Vancouver service to five times a week.

However, the airline is also “exploring further destinations in North America as a secondary strategy, once we’re sure we’ve got our position secure on these three current gateways,” says Fyfe.

Air New Zealand announced a net profit of NZ$71 million ($56.9 million) for its fiscal year through June 30. While this was down 12% from the previous year’s profit, Fyfe notes that the airline “has delivered the most consistent and best relative financial performance of any Australasian airline over the past three years.”

The company’s pre-tax profit of NZ$91 was up 21% versus the prior year, and it is forecasting that its pre-tax profit will more than double for the current fiscal year through June 2013.

The airline is well ahead of its previously announced goal of identifying more than $NZ195 million in annual profitability improvements by 2015. Because it is ahead of schedule, the company setting a new target of NZ$250 million in improvements, with NZ$130 million to be achieved in the current fiscal year.