It’s no coincidence that Air New Zealand will begin international flights of its new Boeing 787-9 in the same month that the last of its jumbo jets is put out to pasture.
Shortly after the new Dreamliner settles into a daily service between Auckland and Perth from October 15, the Kiwi carrier’s final Boeing 747 will make its last flight to an aircraft graveyard in California.
It will fly San Francisco on September 10, returning to Auckland two days later.
That trip marks not only the end for this 16 year old jet but for Air New Zealand’s once 13-strong jumbo jet fleet.
Like many other airlines, Air New Zealand is shifting from the ageing fuel-guzzling four engine aircraft to the new generation of advanced twin-engine jets such as the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and, later this decade, the Boeing 777X.
“Our initial three Boeing 787s are to help us phase out the 747s and provide coverage for upgrading the Boeing 777-200s” says Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 programme director Kerry Reeves.
“The following ones are more to finally kick out the Boeing 767s, and then we have options to purchase more Boeing 787s in 2016 to 2018 which we can use for further growth if we need it” Reeves tells Australian Business Traveller.
And despite the long wait for the Boeing 787-9, with Air New Zealand's first purchase contract signed in 2006, “the features and economics that first drew us to this aircraft are even more attractive and valid to us today than they were 10 years ago” noted the airline's chief financial officer Rob McDonald.
“The cost of a barrel of jet fuel is more than 180% higher today than it was when we first placed our 787-9 order” McDonald reflected.
“Given New Zealand’s relative geographic isolation we have a natural bias towards long-distance flights… this combined with the ever-changing price of jet fuel brings aircraft efficiency into very sharp focus for us.”
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