Five things you need to know about Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo

By David Flynn, November 3 2018

Air New Zealand's first Airbus A321neo jets will take wing from late November, darting between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as the Star Alliance member seeks to sharpen its edge on the competitive trans-Tasman market.

An upgraded version of AirNZ's workhorse Airbus A320 family, this is the first of 14 A321neo aircraft to join the fleet – seven of which will be dedicated to the busiest routes of the Kiwi-Aussie corridor, while six of the smaller A320neo jets (arriving from February 2019) are slated for routes such as Wellington-Sydney and Christchurch-Melbourne.

Flights commence November 23 with Auckland-Brisbane (NZ739) now confirmed as the first route. So what's in store for trans-Tasman travellers on air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo?

No business class

Air New Zealand opted to skip business class on its A321neo jets, fitting them out instead with 214 economy seats from tip to tail.

However, there are still some differences from row to row and even seat to seat...

Which seats have the most legroom?

Apart from the bulkhead-facing row 1 and the exit rows (17 and 27), the most generous legroom is afforded to 42 designated Space+ seats in the front: these are at rows 2-7 as well as the left-side of row 8 (seats 8A, 8B and 8C) and row 9 (seats 9A, 9B and 9C).

Even so, not all Space+ seats are equal: while most Space+ seats have a pitch of 83cm (32.7"), nine have their the pitched pruned to 81cm (31.9") –  this seatmap denotes the location of the less spacious Space+ seats with purple dots.

To break this down for when you go to select your seat: Space+ passengers on the left-side of AirNZ's A321neo (the A, B and C seats) from rows 2 through 8 enjoy a pitch of 83cm, but at row 9 this drops back to 81cm.

However, if you're in any of the right-side Space+ seats (D, E and F), 83cm is yours only from rows 2 through 5 – plonk yourself into rows 6 or 7 and you'll notice the reduced 81cm pitch.

Space + seats can be selected for free by Gold and Elite members of Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyer scheme, as well as Koru members, while the A321neo's first few rows will also be available as 'Works Deluxe' class with the middle seat left vacant.

Also read: Air New Zealand offers free Gold status match to Qantas, Virgin Australia frequent flyers

Legroom in the A321neo's standard seats is even more of a lucky dip.

Rows 10 through 16 on the left side, and 8 through 16 on the right side, see the pitch trimmed to 76cm (30").

But the squeeze really sets in from row 18, where almost every row on the left side of the plane (seats A, B and C) is at a closely-spaced 73.6 cm (29") – with the notable exceptions of row 35 and 36 (marked below with purple dots), where you get a smidge extra knee-room courtesy of a seat separation of 76cm (30”).

This is reversed on the right side of the A321neo: the D, E and F seats at rows 18 through 37 offer 30 inches of pitch, although rows 36 and 37 are set 29 inches apart (marked below with purple dots).

If it helps any, Air New Zealand says the curved design of the A321neo's leather-clad slimline seats mean that passengers "sink further into the seat back creating up to 7 percent more usable space when compared with the equivalent pitch on the existing fleet."

A rethink of the original A320 design has also seen Airbus increase the size of the overhead luggage bins by around 25 percent.

A middle seat you might actually like

"I want the middle seat!" exclaimed nobody ever.

That could change on Air New Zealand's A321neo, as the middle seats in every row (the B and E seats) are 46cm wide, compared to 44cm for the window and aisle seats, to help avoid that battle for the armrests.

“The slightly wider middle seat helps balance out the fact that window and aisle seat customers enjoy a greater sense of space," explains Anita Hawthorne, Air New Zealand's General Manager for Customer Experience.

"We currently have many customers who state a preference for window or aisle seats and it’s possible the new design may see the middle seat get a boost in popularity."

Those seat widths are also up from the standard 43cm of Air New Zealand's current A320 fleet.

Power: AC no, USB yes

While none of Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo seats are fitted with an AC socket, the 10" Panasonic inflight entertainment system fitted into the rear of each seat includes two USB sockets.

One is the familiar rectangular USB-A type, the other is the slim USB-C socket slowly appearing on an increasing number of laptops – including Apple's MacBook family, Dell's 2018 XPS 13 and HP's Elite xP 2-in-1 – and tablets such as Samsung's Galaxy TAB series.

A spokesman for Panasonic tells Australian Business Traveller that the USB-C ports will intelligently switch to serving up more power in USB-C PD (Power Delivery) mode if you connect a laptop or tablet, so that even those super-thirsty bits of kit can be recharged during the flight.

Inflight WiFi

As each A321neo rolls out of the factory it will come fitted with inflight Internet so that trans-Tasman flyers can stay connected above the clouds.

Pricing will be based on how long you spend online rather than how much data you download; at the time of writing, Air New Zealand's website lists options for a one-hour pass and a 'full flight' pass.

The former currently has no pricing, but based on NZ$9 for one hour on WiFi-enabled Boeing 777 flights to Asia, North America and Europe, one hopes that an hour of trans-Tasman WiFi on the A321neo will come in around NZ$5-6.

The trans-Tasman flight pass is currently shown as NZ$30 although some readers report this has dropped to a far more appealing NZ$20.

David

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.

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 88

For quite a while now I've considered NZ a320 comfort and (minimal) service pretty much "budget" . This seat squeeze on the 321 only confirms my opinion. I'd add a sixth "need to know" to David's list - the PW 1100g engines. NZ Dreamliners have been the subject of all sorts of problems and disruptions with their Trent engines. The 321 PW's look like causing more of the same pain.

elchriss0

elchriss0

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 581

Just another aircraft to avoid with this inconsistency

SYDINI

SYDINI

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 70

Just what I was thinking too! How would you know which seat is which. SeatGuru is going to have a field day trying to figure this one out for their site!

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 160

I have booked on the first revenue service of the A321neo being 12 November, being NZ707 AKL/SYD. It will be interesting to see the reaction of those passengers setting in the middle and aft of the aircraft.

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2337

Very interesting, Kris - we’re hoping to be either on this flight or the return SYD-AKL leg in order to share a full review of the seat, flight and WiFi... so who knows, we might even catch up with you in the lounge!

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 160

Hi David - I am doing as a day trip returning SYD/AKL in the evening, so could catch up in either the AKL or SYD lounge.

pearsonlive

pearsonlive

10 Jul 2015

Total posts 9

It's a sad day when a so called full service airline considers 32“ as a luxury that they can charge extra for

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 160

Air NZ is using CabinFlex interior and the seats being used are the next generation of slimline seats for their A320/A321neo's with wider seats, so it will be interesting what the seats will be like.

Martinjc

Martinjc

27 Feb 2014

Total posts 1

Talk about cramming more sardines into a tin can. This configuration sounds horrendous. A seat pitch of 28.7 inches down the back?. Is Air New Zealand now trying to be the RyanAir of the Southern Hemisphere?. Will be avoiding this plane at all costs.

cavemanzk

cavemanzk

NZ

13 Aug 2016

Total posts 39

Have already been for the last couple of years! the current 171 seat Domestic A320CEO already features 30-29" pitch down the back.

Not much difference to an QF 738 since they added the the addational row.

Bob Burgess

Bob Burgess

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

Great tips on the seats with the best pitch, this config really is a bit mixed-up when it comes to legroom, glad to see AusBT is making some sense of it.

USB-C PD, if it can handle my 15 inch MacBook Pro that is great but I doubt I will have room to open the notebook unless I am in a Seat+ row!

hakkinen5

hakkinen5

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 99

Wow!!! 31.7 inches is "Space+"? You've got to be kidding!

And 28 inches down the back? That's less than both Tiger and Jetstar I think. Isn't there a law against that?

You've lost me Air New Zealand.

I wouldn't actually fit in that seat. Disgraceful.

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

John Borghetti's prayers have just been answered!

With the imminent breakup of the Virgin-NZ arrangement, Air New Zealand's configuration of this new A321 fleet has ensured that competing VA flights will be chokkers.

No Business class, all 'Economy', seat pitch and space all over the shop. What was NZ's revenue gurus thinking .. or smoking?

In a single answer: 'Thanks, but no thanks, NZ'

StudiodeKadent

StudiodeKadent

20 May 2015

Total posts 584

Presumably, Air NZ is working on the idea that their daily widebody frequencies (which cater to a lot of business travellers) will be sufficient.

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

Possibly, but this still won't address the economics of flying substantially passenger 'rejected' flights across the ditch.

The idea is to fill as many seats as possible at a manageable or profitable yield - and this A321NEO configuration won't encourage that.

Evidence? I'm yet to see *one* positive comment in this extensive thread from both business and economy flyers. The A321 is a great aircraft .. but not with this NZ layout.

Carrots

Carrots

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Oct 2017

Total posts 31

So they throw their toys out of the cot with VA... and now these seats? Wow. Thankfully Adelaide is a 787 (or rather 777 for now).

*disclaimer who really knows what actually happened with VA, but it makes for a good comment he he!

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 88

Is it just me, or do those armrests in the photo look thinner and shorter than what they've got now?

comcats2168

comcats2168

17 Nov 2011

Total posts 23

I'm fairly sure they're meant to be in inches, but they're just rounded down conversions, e.g. 29 in = 73.66 cm which rounds down to 73 cm. I've never seen an aircraft with seat pitches actually installed in cm.

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2337

Actually the AirNZ a321neo seatmap lists pitch in cm, we converted to inches and rounded to one decimal place (eg 81cm became 31.9").

ZT

ZT

07 Jan 2017

Total posts 31

At some stage there will be an aircraft accident on the ground and some passengers will be delayed exiting the aircraft due to tight seat pitch with a possible horrendous outcome.

Kiwirailengr

Kiwirailengr

10 Apr 2015

Total posts 9

That'll be me who finds 30" woefully inadequate.

John C

John C

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 39

I stopped reading at "No business class". The existing one-class AirNZ A320s are grim travelling experiences that I avoid at all cost. Kiwis have a masochistic streak and will submit to cramped and basic travelling conditions and the airline's increasingly tweezer-lipped approach to serving you a drink. And sitting there while the rubbish sack came down the aisle brought flashbacks of being in school.

evilbrian

evilbrian

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

It's not so much that Kiwis have a masochistic streak but they are incredibly loyal to Air NZ, and the company plays on this loyalty and abuses it big time and too often. I was a loyal customer for many years but will never fly on one of these crates.

msport2012

msport2012

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 315

Yeah, unless it's a wide body 787 or 777 I wont fly them.

Pericon9

Pericon9

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Jun 2013

Total posts 22

After a recent trip to Christchurch on NZ, I needed physio and medication for my back due to the really bad seating. With this new config and after those problems I won't be touching NZ again unless I have no choice. Appalling.

KRL2018

KRL2018

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

14 Aug 2018

Total posts 5

Really? Given all flights are narrow body to CHCH from AU - except emirates - no matter who you flew you'd likely need help

evilbrian

evilbrian

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 151

Which is why I now fly EK via Sydney to Chch, even when based in Melbourne.

ZT

ZT

07 Jan 2017

Total posts 31

If you are packed in like sardines it is important to exercise your legs somehow or you may end up with a deep vein blood clot (DVT).

Felipe

Felipe

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 17

The picture shown here of those seats look so hard and uncomfortable. The public suburban bus that I take every day has seats that look much more comfortable. If this is how NZ welcomes their customers for trips across the Tasman, well quite frankly I am not impressed at all.

AB__CD

AB__CD

29 Mar 2014

Total posts 81

Increasingly I'm finding that the only difference between budget and full service comes down to those winged headrests.

djtech

djtech

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 108

Gives me even more of a reason to fly with Air NZ's 777 or 787 flights to Auckland. Shame to have to suffer in these airbuses to chrischurch.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 561

Air NZ’s new slogan should be “LCC at full-service prices.” They are an example of what happens when you don’t have meaningful local competition. QF and VA are both good because they know they have a competitor up against them all the time and are always looking to improve as both an airline and a business

Mitchd31

Mitchd31

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 15

Very inconsistent ,and although I love the 321,I feel the trans tasman war will really fire up following VA all inclusive relaunch at the end of October.

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 88

Do I count just three toilets for 214 pax + crew? Another insult from Air NZ.

cavemanzk

cavemanzk

NZ

13 Aug 2016

Total posts 39

Thats nothing there A320D (sharlet A320CEO's) have two toilets for 171 passengers + crew!

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 561

Are they the new tiny toilets Airbus and Boeing have come up with to squeeze in more seats? Apparently these toilets are ridiculously small that you virtually have to back into.

JKH

JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 131

You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. It’s just another crap narrow body standard class aircraft, an A320 sardine can for even more sardines.

jasepalm

jasepalm

03 Nov 2018

Total posts 2

All these negative commentators seem to be forgetting that this aircraft isn’t targeted at the Aust BT demographic. Those who need the perks/space etc will look to fly with NZ’s wide body aircraft. Let’s credit the NZ team with the fact they know their fliers bettter than us. Comments such as VA flights will be “chockers” are woefully misinformed.

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 160

I agree with you. The A321neo's across the Tasman is for the leisure traveler who want 'Seat only' or 'Seat/Bay' fares not the business traveler. The A321's will be used for off peak flights only. that is currently being operated by the A320's.

Business travelers will still have their B787/B777 flights.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 561

Most passengers pick the airline, they don't know about the plane that will be servicing a route and most business travelers are flying Economy Class so they will be fully exposed to this new product which flatters JQ..

If Air NZ truly believes this is a plane for leisure travelers, then they should launch a LCC and put the A321s into that brand. As it stands, Air NZ risk damaging their brand. It is only a matter of time until they see the error of their ways and revise the layout of this aircraft. In the meantime, sensible passengers will be using VA or QF and low-cost passengers will head to JQ because, at least, it doesn't try to be something it isn't.

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 160

Air NZ has successfully operated the 'hybrid' 'Seats to Suit' product for the last 8 years.

Air NZ did operate their own LCC called Freedom Air that operated from 1995 to 2008.

tommygun

tommygun

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 88

The NZ team definitely know their flyers, and the infinite willingness of those fliers to take what they're given without complaint. Kiwis have been taught to loathe Jetstar, in reality Air NZ is just another LCC too.

Geoffair

Geoffair

04 May 2018

Total posts 45

Sad when you see what Jet Blue does with its A320s and they have their very able competition trying to keep up!

Nick Sydney 2

Nick Sydney 2

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

Will stick to QF and the 330 where possible. Shame as Air NZ has a friendly service on board.

Pabs

Pabs

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2017

Total posts 12

Hey David, is it definitely confirmed that they will be changing to the A321 on NZ739 from Nov 23? Flying NZ 739 on Nov 29 and it is still showing the 320 seat map + 320 listed as metal operating the trip...just wondering if I should change my seats according to this map, as currently have exit rows on the 320

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2337

Over the weekend Air New Zealand announced that NZ739 on Friday Nov 23 would be the first commercial A321neo flight, but this doesn't mean you should count on that flight a week later also hosting the A321neo – AirNZ could feasibly swap it around its trans-Tasman network to other Aussie east coast destinations to 'share the love'.

Pabs

Pabs

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 May 2017

Total posts 12

Makes sense. Thank you for replying

JKH

JKH

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 131

Looks like a lousy LCC aircraft quite frankly - to be avoided.

puppy79

puppy79

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 112

Disgusting.I recall flying on my second trip to NEW ZEALAND on NZ in the comfort of a wide bodied 767 with about the same kind of capacity and get this going over a whole row to myself.this is way worse.If I go again I will most likely go Qantas even if it means a 737 to sydney or melbourne and look for the a330 services to and from auckland.

PeterNB

PeterNB

22 Nov 2018

Total posts 1

OMG. This wild ride to make a dollar at the expense of basic comfort. Having faithfully flown with these people for 40+ years I really am fast running out of faith in this business model. One day soon the avid NZ supporters may well walk across the hall to another option. How silly and how very pathetic it is to read this article.

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