Air New Zealand will buy thirteen Airbus A320neo and A321neo jets to sharpen its competitive edge against Qantas on the trans-Tasman market.
The order, estimated to be worth over A$1.5 billion at list prices, is seen as another step in the Kiwi carrier's fleet renewal, complementing the role of the Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 777-300ER for long-range international flights.
Air New Zealand says the mix of its new 'neo' fleet has yet to be finalised but will include a minimum of three A321neo aircraft.
The first A321neo is due in late 2017 with the remainder delivered through to 2019.
The jets will replace Air New Zealand’s current fleet of 13 A320s which mainly ply its Australia-New Zealand routes, where Qantas has opted for a fleet of Boeing 737-800s.
According to Airbus the A320neo can typically seat between 164 and 180 passengers in a single economy-class configuration, with around 150 passengers if a premium cabin is added.
The stretched A321neo can pack in 199 to 236 passengers in an all-economy layout.
Air New Zealand currently offers only economy class on its trans-Tasman flights, with 168 economy seats on its A320s, and says its A321neo aircraft will have an additional 38 more seats over its A320s, some of which may be used to add a small business class cabin.
Airbus is pitting the A320neo family against Boeing's 737 MAX, both of which are 'step-change' versions of the single-aisle jets which are for many airlines – among them Qantas and Virgin Australia – the backbone of their domestic fleet.
Both the A320neo and 737 MAX partner new high-efficiency engines with refined aerodynamics – including new wingtip designs – to deliver a claimed 15 percent saving on fuel, along with lower operating costs and reduced noise.
Qantas signed up for 78 of the A320neo jets in 2011, with the first headed for low-cost offshoot Jetstar – which already flies the A320 – from 2016.
For its part, Virgin Australia inked an order for 23 of Boeing's 737MAX jets to be delivered from 2019 through to 2021, which will replace its current fleet of Boeing 737-800s on most domestic Australian flights.
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