Air New Zealand flight crew aboard a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner mock-up – Photo: Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand has been very patient, waiting for delivery of the very first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the stretched version of the currently-flying 787-8. We have been watching closely as the first 787-9 rolled out of paint and then took its maiden flight. The airline still has a while until they take delivery sometime in the middle of 2014, but they are starting to get excited and want to share it with the world.
As of now, Air New Zealand is rolling out some of the details of their Dreamliner interior, as well as what routes the new aircraft will fly.
Business Premier’s fully-flat-bed seat for the 787-9 – Photo: Air New Zealand
Starting October 15th of next year, Air New Zealand will operate the 302-seat 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft on its Auckland-Perth service. The 787-9 will then be introduced on Auckland-Tokyo, followed by Auckland-Shanghai.
The front of the aircraft will feature 18 Business Premier seats, identical to the ones currently aboard their 777-300ERs, in a 1-1-1 layout.
Air New Zealand’s new Premium Economy seat – Photo: Air New Zealand
The change in cabin is most noticeable in the adoption of a new 2-3-2 premium economy layout. The seat, made by U.S. supplier Zodiac, is specially-modified for Air New Zealand. There will be three rows, for a total of 21 of these seats.
Furthermore, Air New Zealand has decided to market their premium economy not as “premium economy”, but rather as “business lite”. Air New Zealand worked with Zodiac to design a more flexible headrest, sculpted upholstery, and a slimline seat-back to increase personal space. The “up-market” strategy does make me wonder if airlines are starting to see Business Class as the new first and Premium Economy as the new business, bringing more definition to “three cabin” airlines without first.
It’s important to note that this will not be a replacement of the premium economy on their 777s, but a new addition to the 787. The 787 is being used to replace the airline’s older 767s, which currently operate with a two-class cabin. “The 787-9 is a flexible mid-long haul aircraft which will replace our current 767 fleet and with this in mind we have introduced a new Premium Economy seat for the aircraft which we think is best described as business lite,” An Air New Zealand spokesperson explained to AirlineReporter.com.
Another angle on Air New Zealand’s new Premium Economy seat – Photo: Air New Zealand
Lastly, there will be 263 seats in Economy, including 14 rows of Air New Zealand’s unique “Skycouch” economy-sleeper product. You might know it better as “Cuddle Class,” allowing you to get a little close with your seat mate. If you are traveling alone, you may still partake – though, in such instances, NZ should really consider providing a stuffed animal or equivalent, lest the marketing name be incorrect! It’s worth noting that it isn’t exactly a king-sized bed. The length of the “bed” is under five feet, and its about three feet wide. Still, it’s better than nothing!
Air New Zealand’s Skycouch will still be a feature on the 787-9 – Photo: Air New Zealand
It seems that the airline is happy to start using their new Dreamliners. “The 787-9 is a true game changer for Air New Zealand and is a key part of delivering on our Go Beyond growth plan and bringing consistency to Air New Zealand’s international fleet,” the airline stated. “Not only is the 787-9 around 20 percent more fuel efficient than the aircraft it’s replacing – it also sets a new benchmark for passenger comfort.”
As with every aircraft interior, press photos and renderings never really do them justice. I’m very excited to see what this is like on an actual 787-9!