Air New Zealand has chosen to go the all-economy route for its new Airbus A321neo and A320neo jets, which will take wing later this year.
The Star Alliance member has been steadily edging away from a commitment to business class on its new trans-Tasman fleet, which will replace the current A320 single-aisle jets which mainly ply its Australia-New Zealand routes.
From tip to tail the A320neo and A321neo jets will be fitted with a 'slimline' economy seat predictably finished in Kiwi black.
Interestingly, the seat – from seatmakers Acro – boasts a slightly wider middle seat compared to its window and aisle neighbours, with an extra 1.5 inches (3.8cm) to help avoid that battle for the armrests.
“The slightly wider middle seat helps balance out the fact that window and aisle seat customers enjoy a greater sense of space" explains Anita Hawthorne, Air New Zealand's General Manager for Customer Experience.
"We currently have many customers who state a preference for window or aisle seats and it’s possible the new design may see the middle seat get a boost in popularity."
Hawthorne also says the window and aisle seats will gain one extra centimetre of width compared to those on the airline's current international Airbus A320 fleet.
PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand has all but ruled out business class on its forthcoming Airbus A321neo fleet, opting instead for an all-economy layout.
The Kiwi carrier had previously flirted with fitting a small business class cabin to the pointy end of the new single-aisle jets to help it better compete against Qantas, which offers business class on all trans-Tasman flights.
AirNZ's partner Virgin Australia has also upgraded its pond-hopping Boeing 737 flights to include a domestic-grade business class.
However, with the delivery of the first A321neo now just one year away, Air New Zealand says "it's very unlikely the A321neo will have business class", the airline's Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace tells Australian Business Traveller.
"More and more the trans-Tasman market is being served by wide-body jets, and as we get more wide-bodies with business and premium seating, my instinct is that we will serve the business market with those wide-bodies," Wallace predicts.
However, this doesn't mean the A321neo will squeeze all passengers into tight-fitting economy seats – even through Airbus' revised cabin layout adds an extra 20 seats in a standard all-economy design, boosting the head-count from 220 to 240.
Read more: Airbus reveals new A321neo layout
AirNZ's A321neo "is likely to have" some form of premium seating, Wallace confirms, such as extra-legroom Space+ rows or a Works Deluxe option in which the middle seats of the 3-3 configuration remain empty.
Read more: Air New Zealand to launch inflight Internet
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