Revealed: Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Business Premier Luxe suites

The Kiwi carrier’s next-gen business class seat breaks cover, with four Row 1 suites boasting more room and sliding doors.

By David Flynn, March 30 2022
Revealed: Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 Business Premier Luxe suites

Air New Zealand’s all-new Business Premier class will include an upmarket Row 1 experience sold as Business Premier Luxe, with more space and more privacy compared to the rest of the premium cabin – and it could be flying by the end of this year.

The long-awaited replacement for AirNZ’s circa-2005 angled sleeper pods will also move to a more conventional arrangement of generally forward-facing seats in a 1-2-1 arrangement.

First photos and details of the new Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe seats are revealed in a filing lodged this week by the airline’s US lawyers to the US Department of Transport intended to demonstrate accessibility for the new seats, and first reported by Seth Miller’s PaxEx.Aero blog.

“Air New Zealand is requesting this determination for the Standard Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe seats on its Boeing 787-9 aircraft,” notes Edward Sauer, from the Washington firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

“Air New Zealand will be configuring is Business Class cabin to incorporate these new seats, and requests this determination no later than April 29, 2022, so that it may proceed with certification and installation.”

A side view of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.. via U.S. Department of Transportation
A side view of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.
via U.S. Department of Transportation

Based on photos contained in the submission – accidentally made public by the DoT and since removed from the public domain  – the seat appears to be based on the Adient Ascent platform (below) which made its debut on Qatar Airways’ latest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Is this Ascent design from Adient Aerospace at the heart of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier seat?
Is this Ascent design from Adient Aerospace at the heart of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier seat?

However, it seems that only the four Business Premier Luxe seats in the front row will be fitted with sliding privacy doors, in keeping with Air New Zealand’s desire to make this a more exclusive – and no doubt more expensive – package.

The photos are of "a mock-up Business Premier cabin in our research and development facilities,” the submission notes – that likely being the airline's ‘Hangar 22’ product development facility in Auckland, where the seats have been in development since before 2018.

“The set-up uses a prototype of the standard Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe seat design which we intend to install on our 787-9.”

Time's up, and not before time, for Air New Zealand's current angled business class pods.
Time's up, and not before time, for Air New Zealand's current angled business class pods.

Approached for comment by Executive Traveller, Air New Zealand’s Chief Customer and Sales Officer, Leanne Geraghty, noted “this is a very early submission and as part of the process, we are required to get approval from authorities such as the US Department of Transport to ensure the seats meet the latest design and safety requirements specified,”.

“Accessibility for customers with disabilities is a big part of our enhanced aircraft offering, and as part of this, we are in the early stages of designing our new cabin layout.”

“What we’re proposing in this submission is a concept to ensure safe access for all customers into and out of the premium seats. It is also the same process we went through to seek approval for the Business Premier lie-flat bed in 2013.”

And while this unexpected leak will surely whet the appetite of Air New Zealand’s premium passengers, Geraghty says “there’s more in store, so stay tuned!”

The Air New Zealand Business Premier Luxe experience

As first reported by Executive Traveller in November 2020, Air New Zealand will now be joining the small but growing number of airlines transforming the front row of its business class cabins into a more premium ’business class plus’ product.

This will double as a ‘mini-first class’ for the Kiwi carrier, by making full use of the extra space typically seen between the front row of business class and the aircraft’s bulkhead wall.

The four Business Premier Luxe suites will be suites in every sense, with the DoT application confirming they will contain sliding doors in referencing how these doors will be removed to facilitate access when transferring passengers in wheelchairs or with other specialised mobility needs.

A side view of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.. via U.S. Department of Transportation
A side view of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.
via U.S. Department of Transportation

“One crew member unlatches and removes the outer panel, revealing the suite door underneath. To remove the suite door, the crew member moves the door aft and then unhinges it from the wall panelling of the suite.”

Mobility access for Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.. via U.S. Department of Transportation
Mobility access for Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.
via U.S. Department of Transportation

However, when outlining the same process for what the application terms Standard Business Premier seats – which are sometimes also referred to as ‘suites’ – there’s no mention of doors: instead, “the crew member removes the outer panelling on the wall of the seat.”

Mobility access for Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.. via U.S. Department of Transportation
Mobility access for Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.
via U.S. Department of Transportation

What else can travellers expect from Air New Zealand’s Business Premier Luxe suites?

The regulatory filing also cites the bed length as 80.25 inches (a stretchy 6’8”, or 204cm) while the seats will be 20.5 inches (52cm) wide. 

In late 2020 the airline surveyed a select group of customers, saying it “has the option to enhance the experience for those that booking the front row in Business Premier.”

The survey said that compared to the rest of the Business Premier cabin, the front row would offer

  • more legroom
  • a shared dining experience (with the guest seated on an ottoman)
  • greater privacy “than our other seats on the plane, in that no one looks into your space”
The video screen and ottoman at the front of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.. via U.S. Department of Transportation
The video screen and ottoman at the front of Air New Zealand's new Business Premier Luxe suite.
via U.S. Department of Transportation

There was no indication that the food and drink service would be different, although there's plenty of time for the airline to finesse this ‘first class lite’ proposition, even just by loading a few bottles of top-shelf wines and Champagne.

Respondents to the survey were also asked to rate a number of marketing names under which this front row experience would be promoted and sold:

  • Business Premier Alcove
  • Business Premier Deluxe
  • Business Premier Retreat
  • Business Premier Plus
  • Violet Suite

It seems none of those struck much of a chord, judging by the fresh Business Premier Luxe appellation.

These same Business Premier seats would also be fitted to AirNZ’s Boeing 787-10 fleet, delivery of which has been pushed back from 2023 to “the 2024 financial year”, airline CEO Greg Foran confirmed in June 2012.

While short on other details, travellers can certainly look forward to large HD video screens and possibly mod cons such as wireless deceive charging.

AirNZ exec Geraghty notes that to date “more than 80,000 design and engineering hours have gone into the new Business Premier seats, along with 18 months of customer research and testing.”

All up, Air New Zealand’s new Business Premier cabin should prove a perfect fit for long-range routes such as the Star Alliance member’s non-stop marathon between Auckland and New York, along with the return of direct flights to Chicago and Houston. 

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 27

Front row seats are undesirable to me as the galley noise is too much for an undisturbed sleep

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 72

Totally agree, it renders the whole exercise futile. Why would anyone sit in the row behind the galley and/or lavs and pay a premium to do so? If you've ever sat in row 5 on A380 or row 2 on QR in F you'll know exactly what I'm taking about.

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 72

PS Row 5 on QF A380 F......

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

Collins Super Diamond are great seats but, for all the delays, it is not as if Air NZ is introducing anything particularly revolutionary.  They were released by B/E Aerospace with Air Canada in 2011 and VA introduced these seats on its, now retired, widebodies nearly 8 years ago. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 603

great idea having the window seats facing away from the windows...took them 4 years to come up with that idea

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

Yes, I noticed that and thought it was strange.  I would have thought it better to have pax facing away from the aisle so they are less likely to be distracted by people moving past.  If that seat map is correct, it appears all seats face the aisle which is the exact opposite of how VA configured its 777s using basically the same seat.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 46

I think the photo you're referring to is the current/existing business class seat - that's what the caption says. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 603

Hi Lafleche, actually I was referring to the seat map, which still shows all seats with the new configuration facing the aisle

Nice scoop! Air New Zealand has chosen a solid seat for this, it's nothing radical or revolutionary but that is the airline's style. But it will be a real step up, and the notion to go for that Business Plus experience at Row 1 is very smart. More airline should be doing this, especially those without first class.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 202

One of the really annoying things about the current Air NZ setup is that you face into the aircraft.  What’s the advantage in that?  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2016

Total posts 53

The first row in the second cabin looks like it is a little larger as well

UA *Gold Lifetime

18 Dec 2015

Total posts 7

Cannot believe that after 80,000 hours of research they decide passengers want to face into the aisle instead of into the privacy of a window or to a companion in the centre. 

I had high hopes that after being so far behind with the current seat, they would come up with something original and brilliant, or at the very least least get away from the horrendous inward facing 2005 seats ??! 

Fail. I’ll stick to Qantas or even UA rather than selecting that experience.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

Three toilets for the 42 seats - that's quite good. But agree the seats should not be angled into the aisle.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 243

As some posters have commented it's quite beyond belief that Air NZ would angle the seats towards the aisle. It looks just like the old layout but with a bit better seat. On VA's now defunct A330 J class  It was always so nice to be able to look out of the window for take off and landing . It would appear that one would have to look over one's shoulder to have a peek. Very poor decision in my opinion. Makes me wonder just who is making the same poor decision re. seat styles.

29 Jan 2016

Total posts 1

This change is long overdue. While Air New Zealand's inflight service has always been superb, those 2005 issue Business Class seats were the worst. One could not have done a better job of ruining a perfectly good forward cabin. I well remember th0e last time I flew SYD-AKL with a stunning view of the hairy shorts clad legs of passenger across the aisle from me. Additionally, what's the point of having windows if the seats face away from them? These new suites look markedly improved. Upon their fleetwide installation, I look forward to a return to flying Air New Zealand's Business Class   

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 243

The decision makers at Air NZ should have a good close look at Etihad's new seating for their B787.

Makes Air NZ look very poor indeed by comparison.


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