Air New Zealand pushes back Boeing 777-200 upgrade plan

By David Flynn, August 12 2014
Air New Zealand pushes back Boeing 777-200 upgrade plan

Air New Zealand says the refurbishment of its Boeing 777-200 fleet won’t be complete until the second half of 2015, despite a previous and admittedly ambitious pledge by airline CEO Chris Luxon that all eight jets would be refreshed by the end of this year.

The upgrade will see the long-range aircraft, which fly to destinations in Asia and North America, receive new seats from tip to tail, including the innovative fold-out Skycouch  in economy and the same premium economy (below) as introduced on the Kiwi carrier's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Review: AusBT's take on Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 premium economy seat

The 777-200s will also get an all-new inflight entertainment system similar to that of the Boeing 787 with touchscreens, extra features and a slick new app-based design.

Read: Ten things we love about Air New Zealand's new Boeing 787-9 inflight entertainment system

The first of the buffed-up Boeings is already in maintenance but “it’s looking like the second half of next year” before its seven siblings have received their make-over, says Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 programme director Kerry Reeves.

“Our original target was to get all the aircraft done as quickly as we could but for a number of reasons - network demand, availability of all the material and seats and so on – we delayed starting on the first one,” Reeves explains.

“And then for subsequent ones, we couldn’t always get the aircraft during that time we wanted.”

“The demand at various times of the year means we have to do them in blocks, and so it’s probably going to be second half of next year before we have the whole fleet completed.”

Each jet will be turned around in six weeks.

“For the first one we plan on about nine weeks, because it’s the first to be done and there are a lot of initial certification processes to go through,” Reeves says.

“Once you’re through that the rest of them can be done quite quickly. Once we get to an optimised level we’re planning on six weeks for each Boeing 777.”

One of the early routes for the revamped Boeing 777-200s will be a daily service between Auckland and Singapore, which could be launched towards the end of this year as part of the new alliance between Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. 

More premium than economy...

The biggest advance will be in premium economy, which will see the Boeing 777-200s fitted with the same seats as the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

“Today the Boeing 777s have our original premium economy that started in 2005, which is basically an economy seat with more legroom” Reeves says.

The later model seats, which are based on the same design from seatmaker Zodiac Aerospace which Cathay Pacific uses for its own premium economy cabins, are 19.3 inches wide with a 5 inch wide shared armrest.

Each seat will get its own AC socket, located near the floor at the front of the seat...

... while a USB socket sits under the 11 inch touchscreen.

While the USB port doesn’t have sufficient juice to recharge a tablet, there’s enough to keep the battery topped up during flight rather than running down as you watch movies, play games or flip through the pages of an e-magazine.

Review: AusBT's take on Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9 premium economy seat

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

Still looks like a far worse premium economy product than on the 773s. I wonder whether they'll eventually ditch the 773 economy plus product as too unprofitable and install these things instead. 

If it's the same seat as Cathay then it'll be eight abreast compared to the NZ 773's six. I'd hate to pay double the economy fare and still wind up in the middle of a block of four. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

I find it odd that while NZ 'remains committed' to the Spaceseat, they've also declared it was 'ahead of its time'. It strikes me as the sort of bizarre backpedalling and dubious justification that many bag QF for.

That said, it has been alleged that they were overweight and did not meet spec, and that the switch to the more conventional seat is the real way forward, and that the Spaceseat is subject to a coverup.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1205

The 77W space seat was rumoured to be overweight and used up too much space for the number of seats it offered.  NZ had to remove a row of W class seats following complaints regarding leg space on the angled seats.  From that point on, I assume the economics of the innovative design fell apart.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 735

On that note, I wrote my last comment from MEL, am writing this one from AKL, and have spent the intervening three hours in a SpaceSeat (which is why it was on my mind).

Honestly I had a bit of a look and it barely takes up less room than a business-class seat, which makes it good value, but bad economics. 

28 Sep 2011

Total posts 2

“For the first one we plan on about nine weeks, because it’s the first to be done and there are a lot of initial certification processes to go through,” Reeves says.

What they need to say is really;  ZK-OKA has been out of service since March because as well as the re-fit we also put here through a "D Check"  which takes a lot longer on the aircraft.  She was planned to re-enter service last month (July) but this got pushed back and the new date is next week.  fingers crossed.   This year they might get 3 aircraft done,  looks like the 763's will be staying longer then :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 168

"The biggest advance will be in premium economy" indeed it will, but for economy it will be a drop in standards as it goes 10 abreast, effectively losing over an inch in seat width and each aisle also loses about 3 inches of width, just to ensure every aisle seat has a higher risk of being hit by passing passengers.

The IFE upgrade will be welcome of course, and since most economy passengers don't choose airlines based on their seats, it will work for NZ.  Business Premier will be much like the 777-300s which will be welcome of course.

This delay means that the biggest product differential will remain on the NZ-US/CAN routes when 777-200s are rostered,  so they will continue to be seriously inferior in PE, but the superior product in economy.

As much as I do like flying with Air NZ. I just find them too expensive to fly long haul when Virgin Aus offer a simlar standard for service for a lot less money. I do wish that Virgin would upgrade the IFE its so dated the sound system doesn't even do stereo.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 168

The first refurbished NZ 777-200 ZK-OKA has apparently flown on a test flight, as NZ6080.

Seatmap and interior still kept away from the public eye, which is odd if it is to slip into service shortly.  Perhaps its first services will be to plug the weekly 777-200 SFO service and the YVR route, and two more by December will enable NZ to reliably operate those services, the new SIN route and the seasonal NZ4 additional LAX service.  

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