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Air New Zealand will ditch the unique premium economy Spaceseat of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in favour of the more conventional seat flown on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners (below).
The Kiwi airline today confirmed a move that's long been expected, which will boost the number of premium economy seats on the Boeing 777s from 44 to 54.
Launched in early 2011, the advanced SpaceSeat – clad in white leather upholstery and encased in a fixed shell module – has been criticised for lack of legroom (AirNZ eventually remedied this by removing one row of seats from the Boeing 777-300ER's premium cabin) and minimal recline.
“When we unveiled the Spaceseat in 2010, it was revolutionary and clearly the best option in the market at the time, as a string of international awards has proven" says Carrie Hurihanganui, Air New Zealand’s General Manager for Customer Experience (below).
"However, seating technology and materials have come a long way since then and our customer research now shows consistently higher satisfaction scores for our newest Premium Economy offering so it’s time to continue Air New Zealand’s evolution in this space.
Air New Zealand opted for a very different seat on the Boeing 787-9 (below) and subsequently refit of Boeing 777-200ER jets.
The Boeing 777-300 refurb will span from February to November 2017 and also see the long-range jets receive a 'refreshed' Business Premier seat.
Air New Zealand will also tweak the layout of its next three Boeing 787-9s, slated for delivery from October 2017, with a clear focus on the premium end of the plane.
The number of business class seats will rise from 18 to 27, with premium economy seats going to 21 to 33, while the economy cabin will shrink from 263 seats to just 215.
PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand could axe the advanced premium economy SpaceSeat of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in favour of the more conventional seat introduced on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
AirNZ CEO Chris Luxon says the airline is currently running the ruler over the merits of both seats ahead of a 2017 refresh for its long-range Boeings.
"We haven't made a final decision yet, and we're in an advantageous position where we have two very good options in premium economy," Luxon told Australian Business Traveller at a meeting of Star Alliance airline CEOs in Zurich.
"We think that the SpaceSeat probably is an option where people really love it or find it doesn't work or recline as well," Luxon said of the seat's divisive nature when it comes to passenger opinion.
"We made the call on the Dreamliner and the Boeing 777-200 refurb to go with the new seat, and that’s rating superbly with our customers," Luxon added.
"When we go to refurbish the interiors of our Boeing 777-300s there's a chance we might flip that premium economy out and put in the same one we've got on the Dreamliner and the 777-200."
If adopted on the Boeing 777-300ER, the same seat would allow Air New Zealand to boost the number of premium economy passengers by some 50% per row, based on the SpaceSeat's current 2-2-2 layout and the 2-4-2 configuration of the Boeing 777-200ER.
Luxon admitted that he is leaning towards the newer seat and that "the key thing for us is we want to have consistent product everywhere... but we want to make sure we've got that right before we jump to a conclusion. We'll make a decision before the end of the year."
David Flynn travelled to Zurich as a guest of Star Alliance
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