UPDATE [MAY 27, 2019] | Air New Zealand will buy as many as twenty extended-range Boeing 787 Dreamliners as the Kiwi carrier maps out its next-generation fleet and eyes non-stop flights from Auckland to New York.
The first of the initial eight Boeing 787-10s will join the Air New Zealand fleet in late 2022, "with the remainder delivered at intervals through to 2027," the airline confirmed this morning, with an option to add as many as 12 more 787-10s to its fleet
The factory-fresh Dreamliners will allow AirNZ to retire eight older Boeing 777-200s, which will be phased out by 2025.
Air New Zealand and Boeing have worked on extending the Boeing 787-10's range to approach that of the long-legged Boeing 777-200s.
"The game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we’ve ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions similar to our current 777-200 fleet," observed Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon.
“This is a hugely important decision for our airline. With the 787-10 offering almost 15 percent more space for customers and cargo than the 787-9, this investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens up new opportunities to grow."
PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand is expected to buy new extended-range Boeing 787 Dreamliners as the Kiwi carrier maps out its next-generation fleet and eyes non-stop flights from Auckland to New York.
Australian Business Traveller understands that Air New Zealand CEO Chris Luxon will announce the multi-billion dollar order on Monday May 27.
The Dreamliners will replace eight older Boeing 777-200s as well as carve out new routes, which could include a direct Auckland-New York marathon.
The Airbus A350 was also a contender, although Air New Zealand’s long-range fleet is an all-Boeing affair and the Star Alliance member was notably the first airline to fly the Boeing 787-9, so the decision to sign on Boeing’s dotted line will hold little surprise.
It’s believed that Air New Zealand shied way from the advanced Boeing 777X – which has yet to make its first test flight, ahead of deliveries from 2020 – in favour of an improved version of the Dreamliner, which the airline has flown since 2014.
Approached by Australian Business Traveller, a spokesman for Boeing declined to comment. Air New Zealand did not respond to a request for comment.
Longer flights, fewer seats?
The new NZ Dreamliners are said to have been tweaked by Boeing to further boost their range.
There is also speculation they may have a more ‘premium-heavy’ seating layout than the current Boeing 787-9s, with a skew towards business class and premium economy.
This could reduce the overall passenger count (while retaining the higher-priced seats) in order to eke out extra range, similar to what Qantas has done with its Boeing 787-9 which flies non-stop between Perth and London.
Air New Zealand’s new Boeing 787 business class seat
The long-legged Dreamliners will continue to eschew first class in favour of an all-new business class seat being developed at a secure workshop dubbed ‘Hangar 22’, located near the airline’s Auckland headquarters.
The new Business Premier seat, along with fresh takes on premium economy and economy, has been tested by groups of AirNZ passengers, including many who regular fly the airline’s longest routes.
Although all participants were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, one traveller – who holds Elite status in airline’s Airpoints loyalty scheme and flies to the US on a monthly basis – has praised the seat.
“This is the seat I’ve been waiting for,” he told Australian Business Traveller, speaking under the condition of anonymity due to his ‘high-value passenger’ status with the airliner.
“It’s a catch-up to the top rung of international airlines. There’s more space and more privacy, and are few small but clever touches done in an NZ way.”
“Not everybody’s going to love everything about it, but I think most business travellers will see this as NZ stepping from the 2000s into the 2020s.”
Air New Zealand is also planning to roll out an upgrade to the business class seat aboard its Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 jets, with the ‘enhanced’ seats being refreshed from late 2019 through to the end of 2020.
CEO Luxon has described the refresh’s scope as involving “enhancements to the existing award-winning seat as well as a new food, beverage and service offering that reflects the essence of who we are as a nation.”