UPDATE | Air New Zealand has pushed back a fleet-wide refit of its Boeing 777-200 jets until the second half of 2015 – read our story for details.
PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand plans to overhaul all eight of its long-range Boeing 777-200 jets this year with new seats from tip to tail, plus an all-new touchscreen inflight entertainment system, as the Kiwi carrier bolsters its international fleet.
"We have a complete refurbishment happening this year of our Boeing 777-200s" Air New Zealand CEO Chris Luxon confirmed to Australian Business Traveller during a briefing on the airline's forthcoming Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
"These are 2005-2006 age aircraft, so they're still quite new. We're going to reconfigure them along the same lines as the Boeing 777-300 and our new 787-9 Dreamliners" Luxon said of the upgrade, which is costed at over NZ$100 million (A$92 million) and will include lie-flat beds in business class plus the innovative economy Skycouch (seen below).
"The exciting thing for us is we're going to end up with 25 widebody aircraft that all look and feel exactly the same" Luxon said.
"Whether you're going to Hong Kong or Shanghai, to Los Angeles or San Francisco, the customer experience is going to be consistent, and that's been a big drive of ours."
Well, maybe not exactly the same: while AirNZ's flagship 777-300 jets will feature the airline’s unique premium economy Spaceseat, the 777-200 refit will adopt the more conventional premium economy seat (seen below) used in the Boeing 787.
"Yes, they do have a different premium economy" Luxon allowed, "but the ratings on this (new) seat are fantastic – they are comparable to what we get on the Boeing 777-300."
"This premium economy going onto the 787-9 will also be going on the 777-200 refurb, so there will be 18 aircraft with this new premium economy and seven, all of our 777-300s, remain with the current Spaceseat configuration."
The premium economy seat of Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-200 and 787-9 is supplied by airline seat manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace and is the same base model as Cathay Pacific's premium economy.
However, all of AirNZ's premium economy seats will include the integrated footrest which Cathay Pacific limits to seats in only the front row of its cabin.
Panasonic's new touchscreen eXlite inflight entertainment system will also be installed in all seats, making Air New Zealand the first customer for the low-power lightweight kit.
Panasonic Avionics describes traits of the eXlite as "elegant industrial design, seamless interior integration, capacitive touch, proximity sensors, incredible viewing angles, and next-generation processors. It also has a streamlined architecture that reduces weight and cost."
Depending on how airlines want the eXlite configured the system's apps can include seat-to-seat chat as well as inflight Internet access to Facebook, Twitter and email.
In addition to receiving the first three of 10 Dreamliners this year, Air New Zealand will also pick up two more Boeing 777-300 jets.
"The Boeing 777-300s will continue to point into North America" Luxon says, with the Dreamliners predominately flying into Asia and the 777-200s flying "a mix of North America and Asia routes".
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