Air New Zealand not committed to business class on A321neo

By Chris C., June 2 2015
Air New Zealand not committed to business class on A321neo

Air New Zealand is yet to decide if its Airbus A321neo aircraft will sport business class on flights across the Tasman or whether they’ll follow the lead of the incumbent A320s in an all-economy layout.

With the airline’s first A321neo due in late 2017, we asked Air NZ Chief Sales and Commercial Officer Cam Wallace to share a little about what’s to come on the next-gen bird.

Stretch out in business class aboard Air NZ's Boeing 777-300ERs
Stretch out in business class aboard Air NZ's Boeing 777-300ERs

“We have many, many different options…” Wallace tells Australian Business Traveller, “… whether it’s a premium cabin or a ‘Space+’ cabin, whether we have a Works Deluxe-type product, whether we have a small business cabin or a large business cabin… so there are probably 4-5 different options and we haven’t yet concluded our position.

“We’re still working through what the layout of the passenger amenities will be as there’s a lot of intensive customer research involved such as what are our customers prepared to pay for and what does a larger cabin do to your economy-to-business mix, so there’s a lot of investment in time and energy deciding how those aircraft will be laid out.”

Virgin Australia business class, partnership

Air New Zealand’s alliance partner Virgin Australia now offers business class on every trans-Tasman flight, with VA’s Chief Commercial Officer Judith Crompton describing the move as “absolutely critical” and “in line with our vision and our strategy to be a full premium brand airline.”

Business class: now available on all Virgin Australia flights to New Zealand
Business class: now available on all Virgin Australia flights to New Zealand

Read: Virgin Australia trans-Tasman business class review

We asked Wallace if Air NZ was looking to make a similar decision, who responded that “we actually have quite a bit of trans-Tasman business class, because if you look at Auckland-Sydney we have a Boeing 767 on a daily basis, we have quite a bit of wide-body capacity on a daily basis for Auckland-Melbourne and certainly Auckland-Brisbane as well.

“(Virgin Australia) also having a small business cabin also adds to the proposition, because they’re winning more corporate accounts which is then channelling more corporate customers across the Tasman, so that’s worked really, really well for us,” Wallace shares.

Overall, we’re told that Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand jointly enjoy a 53-54% market share across the Tasman, with each airline codesharing on the other’s flights to give travellers maximum flexibility as to when they travel.

LAN 787s, Emirates A380s: hard to compete?

Rivals and Qantas partners Emirates and LAN woo travellers across the Tasman with fully-flat beds as opposed to domestic-grade reclining seats, with Emirates also raising the bar to new heights, quite literally, with an inflight cocktail bar and lounge on its flagship A380s that’s perfect for daytime flights.

Emirates A380 business class: enjoy cocktails when crossing the Tasman
Emirates A380 business class: enjoy cocktails when crossing the Tasman

But does that make it more difficult for Air New Zealand to compete on its own turf?

That’s a firm “no” from Wallace, “because even where we have the Boeing 777 operating (offering fully-flat beds in business class), there’s a very, very, very small percentage of customers that actually put the bed down, because it’s such as short flight.

“The cruise might be two hours, so we don’t see that as a big issue – what we see as the bigger opportunity for us in a competitive sense is actually our frequency, our network, our lounges and our loyalty, and that proposition for us in the last four years has been tremendously successful on the Tasman.”

A case in point: AirNZ runs a number of all-economy trans-Tasman flights using its A320s, which are positioned on routes and times “where there are more leisure and free and independent travellers” while the twin-aisle aircraft with business class are used “where we think the business market is positioned.”

“But suffice to say we are very comfortable with our position on the Tasman… very comfortable,” Wallace concludes.

Also read: Air New Zealand opens new Star Alliance lounge in Sydney

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

NZ Elite

03 Jul 2014

Total posts 110

As a regular Trans-Tasman passenger, I agree with him on the 777 Business Premier - a full lie-flat bed (that you have to get up from to put down) is overkill for such a short flight. But nor does that mean they shouldn't be putting a premium class on TT routes.

I just don't think they have a particularly suitable hard product for Trans-Tasman. Funnily enough (because I usually hate it) the 767 probably fits the bill the best. VA and QF have probably got it about right - premium service, coupled with a large and comfortable 2x2 recliner layout.

Maybe repurpose the 777 spaceseats as 321 J! ;)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 53

I agree, for product consistency , a form of J class I think would be helpful.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

16 May 2011

Total posts 113

For MEL, I appreciate the same product consistency, 77W all the way on MEL-AKL-LAX, that's one of the main selling points for NZ here. But definately a product similar to QF/VA would be very useful for the narrowbody fleet for the other flights, the recliners are perfect for such flights to AKL, CHC, WLG etc...

...yes we still are unable to fly J between SYD and WLG :-(

04 Mar 2015

Total posts 17

and obviously air nz are missing out on revenue there.  Everytime I fly from WLG, the people in the lounge don't sit in works deluxe and don't get meals, so obviously not paying for works either.

Air New Zealand - NZ*E

17 May 2015

Total posts 94

A premium seat is essential - not sure the full business premier seat is the way to go as over all space is at a premium. The seat must have a decent recline - the premium economy seats, or similar. Needs to be at least 20" wide and pitch 40" giving adequate leg room. The rest is a bonus for sub 4 hour sector.

the US airlines are grappling to put in QF style Suites on A32x a/c - would that up the ante on VA?

24 Apr 2015

Total posts 128

seeing Virgin & All Bleck Air codeshare everything across Tasman, it would be a mess to have Virgin operated flight with NZ flight code having busienss class & v.v. not.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 39

I loathe Air NZ's cramped, one-class narrow-body services across the Tasman and go out of my way to avoid them. Air NZ has always had a Nanny-type element to its service (part of the national Presbyterian-type  character) and you can see it in the regimented way that the in-cabin procedures operate - the rubbish-gathering in particular gets me.Also the lollies - if that isn't infantilisation, what is?

Add LONG, LONG waits these days for a drinks trolley (you are lucky if you get one drink) and these days it follows the meal trolley, and you have a recipe for in-flight hell. You also get told off if you want two drinks at once "just to save you coming back".  Of course AirNZ will say that you can order from your seat, but that's fairly sparing service as well. I'd say this is an airline that at economy level goes out of its way to find ways to minimise service.   

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

30 May 2016

Total posts 6

Agree with 'Domesticgoddess' - make the SPACESEAT - the BP product on the A321 NEO - I would definitley use / pay accordingly


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