Air New Zealand will stand down its Boeing 777-300ER jets over the coming years, with the advanced fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner taking over all long-range routes to Asia and North America.
The Kiwi carrier currently lists seven Boeing 777-300ERs and 14 Boeing 787-9s in its fleet, but will replace two 777-300ERs by 2025 with its first two of its eight Boeing 787-10s on order.
The five remaining 777-300ERs will be quickly put out to pasture as the rest of the 'Dash 10' Dreamliners arrive, with Air New Zealand Chief Financial Officer Richard Thomson saying "we are now set to have an all 787 fleet for our long haul business by 2027."
Thomson outlined the fleet overhaul in an analyst briefing following Air New Zealand's FY21 annual results, which saw an NZ$440 million loss as the airline closed the book on the first full-year impact of Covid-19.
The Star Alliance member traditionally generates two-thirds of its revenue from international travel, where the shift to an all-787 fleet will result in significant cost savings.
"Not only do these aircraft represent the best in currently available technology, but they'll also bring about significant simplicity benefits in all areas of our operations, crewing, engineering and maintenance and flight operations to name a few," Thomson said.
AirNZ's new Boeing 787 business class goes 'business plus'
The Boeing 787-10s will see the debut of Air New Zealand's all-new Business Premier business class seat, along with a 'business plus' section in the front row offering additional legroom, space and privacy plus what the airline has described as "a shared dining experience".
The upmarket Row 1 experience takes full advantage of the front row in a business class cabin – where seats facing the bulkhead wall already tend to have extra legroom – to create a row of business class seats superior to the rest.
Air New Zealand has been plotting a replacement for its circa-2005 sleeper for several years, and in 2018 invited selected passengers – including many who regularly fly on AirNZ's longest routes to North America – to trial a mock-up of the seat under lock and key at the airline's 'Hangar 22' product development facility in Auckland.
A survey sent to selected customers last year noted the airline "has the option to enhance the experience for those that booking the front row in Business Premier" and also flagged possible marketing names such as Business Premier Deluxe, Business Premier Plus and Business Premier Retreat.
Regardless of the name, these primo pews would presumably come with a higher asking price in dollars or frequent flyer points, although they could also make a wonderful 'surprise and delight' upgrade for Airpoints Elite Priority One (and potentially Elite Plus) members.
CFO Thomson said the airline's current Boeing 787-9s would also be due for an upgrade after 2023, but was unable to offer more clarity on the timeline for the "interior refit program."
"The interiors on that fleet will start to require a refresh at some point beyond the 2023 financial year, which will require additional CapEx that is not currently reflected in the chart."
"When we know more about the timing and quantum of that program of work, we will communicate that to you."