Passengers setting foot on Air New Zealand’s daily flights between Perth and Auckland will soon have a rather different travel experience to what they’re used to.
From November 15 2022 to February 16 2023, the six-hour route will be flown by an Airbus A330 leased from Spanish charter firm Wamos Air and staffed by Wamos’ European crew.
There’ll be also be a different business class seat – one which we expect many will prefer to Air New Zealand’s awkwardly-angled pews – with a full meal for every economy passenger, even if they’ve only booked a basic Seat or Seat+bag fare.
But premium economy and WiFi will be missing from the mix.
Air New Zealand says the short-term swap has been driven by skyrocketing demand for travel over the peak summer season, and is a “proactive” move to avoid problems caused by any shortfall of both aircraft and crew.
The Boeing 787 usually assigned to Perth-Auckland route will be kept on call as a spare “to maintain overall schedule stability.”
“We had none of that contingency available over the really busy July holiday period, and sometimes it caught us with disruptions and operational challenges,” Air New Zealand General Manager Short Haul, Jeremy O’Brien, tells Executive Traveller.
“So this provides us with a buffer against those unforeseen circumstances by freeing up an aircraft that can be brought in at short notice… it builds resilience into the network so that should things happen, we're able to recover really quickly.”
The A330 supplied by Madrid-based Wamos Air will come with its own crew, which in turn frees up more Air New Zealand pilots and cabin crew while the airline continues to recruit and train up pilots and crew to keep the airline soaring and “avoid a situation of making last-minute cancellations.”
O’Brien described Wamos as “a really trusted operator who is used to delivering to a premium product… and their aircraft, which we went up to Madrid and inspected, is a really modern A330 which was refreshed in 2020.”
The Star Alliance member’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner will return to Perth as of February 17 2023 – until then, here’s what will change in the passenger experience.
Business class passengers will still enjoy a fully lie-flat bed – but it’ll be in a more conventional forward-facing seat with a 1-2-1 layout, so travellers with a partner can select one of the paired ‘honeymoon mode’ seats in the middle.
These also boast more personal space and stowage around the seat, with AC and USC power outlets conveniently located at the from of the seat, near the armrest and next to a pocket perfectly sized for a tablet or book.
Every passenger will “receive a full Air New Zealand meal service and beverages,” the airline promises. That’s another change for the better, as meals are normally not included in the lowest-priced Seat or Seat+bag economy fare.
But with no premium economy seating – just 260 economy seats with 32” pitch, in a 2-4-2 layout – Air New Zealand says passengers who booked premium will be offered a seat in economy, a refund of the fare difference “and we’ll also give them $150 as a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience,” O’Brien tells Executive Traveller.
However, travellers who for whatever reason would prefer not to fly on the Wamos A330 “will have the option to (have their fare) go into travel credit which will be valid for 12 months, or request a full refund.”
Finally, the Wamos A330 doesn’t have WiFi – so if you’re used to taking advantage of Air New Zealand’s free inflight Internet service, now’s the time to switch off and enjoy an inflight movie or a good book.