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Behind closed doors and with tightly-sealed lips, Air New Zealand is working on an all-new business class seat to replace its decade-old sleeper.
The seat is expected to crown the pointy end of AirNZ's forthcoming non-stop flights to New York and other far-afield destinations on the Boeing 777X or Airbus A350 from 2022, and would also appear on a refit of the Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet.
The Star Alliance member's current business class is facing competition from more modern and generally superior seats flown by competitors such as Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, among others.
''Whatever you land on is going to be on board an aircraft for a decade plus, so you have to get it right," Air New Zealand's chief marketing and customer officer Mike Tod told the New Zealand Herald. "And part of getting it right involves a little bit of crystal ball gazing. In our case we have to look as far out as 2030.''
''We have been having a bunch of super interesting conversations across different industries around the globe trying to distil down what common themes we need to be thinking about, while at the same time identifying partners who share the same vision for the future of air travel.''
The NZ Herald reports that development of the new business class seat, along with its premium economy and economy counterparts, is being carried out "in a secure building near (the airline's) downtown Auckland headquarters."
"While the airline is not releasing details of the project, the test site has been dubbed 'Hangar 22'' and for the past month a handful of its customers, including some of its most frequent long-haul flyers have started trialling early-stage product development."
Consultants from US design firm IDEO – who shaped the previous generation of seats, including the revolutionary but-since-canned Spaceseat - have also reportedly visited Auckland.