Air New Zealand targets premium passengers with Boeing 787-10s

By Chris C., June 12 2019
Air New Zealand targets premium passengers with Boeing 787-10s

Air New Zealand’s upcoming Boeing 787-10 jets – which begin to join the airline’s fleet from late 2022 – present an opportunity for AirNZ to give its business class and premium economy cabins a significant boost: both in size, and in function.

As the aircraft that will allow the airline to fly non-stop from Auckland to New York, passengers will no longer need to connect onto United Airlines flights from places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago or Houston to complete their Big Apple-bound journey: spending more time instead aboard a single AirNZ plane.

Speaking with Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Annual General Meeting in Seoul, Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon shares that over the next three years, the focus is “all about how we configure the aircraft going forward.”

“Premium (cabins are) something we're really interested in … and I do think there's a big opportunity for us to look at how we might expand our Business Premier and our premium economy,” referring to the airline’s order for up to 20 Boeing 787-10s.

As previously reported, AirNZ is actively developing and testing a new Business Premier seat at its secure ‘Hangar 22’ facilities in Auckland, along with new premium economy and economy cabins: something the airline has traditionally been rather tight-lipped about, but which Luxon can now elaborate on.

“It's been really fun! We’re now bringing (invited) customers into Hangar 22, and they do simulated flights over the course of a weekend, which is going really well. We’ll learn from that, (particularly) how they want to move through the different transitions of work, rest, sleep, and how we can make that as seamless as possible.”

Another consideration of the project which will also influence the final design is “how do we balance privacy (for passengers) versus being able to interact with our staff, which is a big part of Air New Zealand's service experience,” tipping that sliding doors in business class may be under consideration.

The airline still has plenty of time to make its final decisions and can continue testing and seeking feedback from staff and invited guests alike for at least the next 18 months before locking-down a design, but as part of that process, Air New Zealand is also being mindful to attract not only business travellers at the front of the plane, but high-end leisure guests as well.

“With our partners, we bring about 45% of all the visitors to New Zealand,” Luxon continues, “and thinking very clearly about when we go to new destinations (such as New York), that we get a wealthy premium traveller that we want to be able to bring to New Zealand, (who) spends more money each and every day they are in the country.”

Also under consideration: a second premium cabin layout for the Boeing 787-10s

While Air New Zealand is openly looking at having more than one cabin configuration aboard its Boeing 787-10s – that is, having a different arrangement of seats between business class, premium economy and economy between jets – the airline is quick to avoid having an “orphan-configured aircraft”, which only makes financial sense to fly on some routes and not others.

“For us, what's been really important is that we have a totally consistent fleet. For example, our Business Premier lie-flat bed is available on all our (long-haul) aircraft… the premium economy is now exactly the same, and there’s Skycouch in economy – our lie-flat couch product – is now on all our aircraft as well,” Luxon highlights.

Instead, the biggest change between Air New Zealand aircraft remains the number of seats in each cabin: whether that’s more of them in business class, or more rows in economy, depending on each jet, route, and demand.

One example cited is China, which was predominantly a leisure route for AirNZ around 5-7 years ago, when lie-flat beds didn’t appear on those flights to match the demand of the time.

“It was a Boeing 767 and it was a great economy product, but not a great premium product,” Luxon reflects, “but now we need even more premium product for that market, and by having a consistent product within cabins, we can then just put the right aircraft on the right route at the right time: that's the whole model.”

New York within reach, but London remains one-stop from Auckland

With the Kiwi carrier planning non-stop flights between Auckland and New York, it begs the question whether Air New Zealand also has an ambition to fly from its home hub in Auckland non-stop to London, mirroring the Sydney-London Project Sunrise plans of its cross-Tasman codeshare partner Qantas.

Currently, AirNZ serves London from Auckland via Los Angeles, although a non-stop Auckland-London flight would clock in at almost 1,000 miles longer than Sydney-London, or almost 3,000 miles longer than the planned Auckland-New York route for the Boeing 787-10.

When asked whether the airline was indeed planning to ditch the Los Angeles stopover for London flyers, Luxon says simply that “no, we’re not.”

On long-distance flights beyond the UK capital, “it's with our partnerships and alliance relationships that we feel we can best deliver Europe… but our real focus is staying within the greater Pacific Rim region… particularly, flying from New Zealand into the Americas, into Asia, into Australasia.”

“We're very interested in continuing to expand a lot of routes throughout those three regions of the world,” Luxon closes.

Also read: Air NZ's upgraded business class seat for existing Boeing 777s, 787s launches late 2019

Chris Chamberlin attended the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1426

I thought the Auckland to NY was in a 789 as the 78-10 did not have the legs for it unless it is a special build. Wasn’t the 78-10 a basic stretch that sacrificed range (<7000nm) so wasn’t really up against the A359.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 196

There has been alot of speculation that Air NZ has been working with Boeing and RR to get extra mileage on a tank of gas for the B789's so they could be used on long and non-stop direct ultra long haul services, so the B789's could compete with the A350-900ulr. So, it seems that the knowledge and work gained is going to be used on the -10's.

I was under the impression that the -10's were going to be used on high passenger demand medium to long haul routes that are currently operated by the B777-200er's.

Obviously, Boeing and GE has convinced Air NZ using the -10's on nonstop direct ultra long haul routes can be done. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see what happens.

11 Dec 2015

Total posts 85

I wondered that as well. The 787-10s range on paper (11,910 km) is around 2,000 klm less than that of the 787-9 (14,140 km). Meanwhile, Auckland - New York is around the same distance as Perth-London - approximately 14,000 klm.

I realise that routing via favourable prevailing winds, reduced seating and engine/fuel management tweaks can make a difference, but 2,000 klm difference?

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 106

I think there is some confusion, they will not be using 787-10 for longer routes to New York or Chicago as they would only be able able to carry a very small passenger load(100ish), even if there was a 6T MTOW increase. These routes would be better served by the 787-9.

The 787-10 will be used for SIN, TYO, PVG, EZE, HKG, LAX and SFO, which are all within the range of the aircraft and won't have too many issues with payload (Mainly existing 777-200er routes)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 168

LAX-LHR isn't primarily about linking NZ to London, but actually is a profitable high-yield sector in its own right. NZ earns almost as much from fares on that sector alone as it can on the whole AKL-LAX-LHR route.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 5

Agreed. Wanted to do the LHR-LAX-AKL route last month and it was much cheaper to do LHR-SIN-AKL on Singapore.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 31

Fond memories of prawn entrees & perfectly cooked "pink in the middle" eye fillet on the 767. Bored of brisket, beef cheeks and shanks on 787-9. Hoping 787-10 will have better food.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 154

Agreed, Air NZ food is not what it used to be. But it ain't the plane, it's the penny-pinching management of F&B budget.

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 31

I am flying SQ tin via CHC. Lobster Thermidor awaits. :)

I will be lucky to se a shrimp on NZ tin these days!


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

Perhaps just call it metal rather than tin.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

23 Apr 2019

Total posts 8

Air NZ have the option to convert some of these to 787-9's. They would be the one's to do NYC, not the 787-10.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 37

I’m quite certain that the -10’s are direct replacements for the 777-2s. The -10’a in order cannot do ULR. However, current -9’s can (eg they can do ORD, the -10s would struggle even on that).

I imagine that once -10s arrive, that will free up some -9s for longer routes. For example, the 787-9s currently fly to Singapore, Tokyo. Those aircraft will go to NY while the 10’s will do Tokyo and Singers.

03 Sep 2013

Total posts 3

Got to remember the 787-10 is replacing a 777-2 when they're put into service. So really they're not freeing up any extra aircraft.


20 Sep 2012

Total posts 75

I believe most are aware these are to replace ageing planes in the fleet.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Jul 2016

Total posts 27

Bring back a Mark 2 version of the SPACESEATS

I loved this product

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Air New Zealand targets premium passengers with Boeing 787-10s