In May 2019, Air New Zealand announced its commitment to purchase eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft powered by GEnx engines. A year and a half have passed, and a health crisis has gripped much of the world. How has this time affected the airline’s aircraft order, and what’s the latest? Let’s find out.
The initial order
The initial order, announced by the airline on May 27th, 2019, was to have the first 787-10 join the Air New Zealand fleet in 2022, alongside its existing fleet of 787-9 Dreamliners. The carrier initially said that the first new aircraft was expected to join the Air New Zealand fleet in “late 2022,” with the remainder delivered at intervals through 2027.
“The 787-10 is longer and even more fuel efficient. However, the game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we’ve ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions similar to our current 777-200 fleet.” -Christopher Luxon, Chief Executive, Air New Zealand via an airline press release
As stated above by Mr Luxon, the new long-haul planes were purchased with the intention of replacing Air New Zealand’s fleet of eight 777-200 aircraft, which will be phased out by 2025. Combined with GE’s GEnx-1B engines, the airline says the jets are expected to be 25% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft they’re replacing.
In addition to the eight firm orders announced, the agreement included options to increase the number of aircraft from eight to up to 20 as well as substitution rights that allow a switch from the larger 787-10 to smaller 787-9s or a combination of the two models for future fleet and network flexibility. The delivery schedule can also be delayed or accelerated according to market demand. The last point would be key in adapting to the events of 2020.
787-10 delivery delayed
“We’ve already pushed those orders back a little bit,” Air New Zealand’s Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace said to Executive Traveller when asked about the Boeing 787-10s. However, Wallace failed to specify what “a little bit” meant. However, we think that this means the first could be delivered in early 2023 at the earliest.
Wallace adds that the airline has fleet flexibility and that his team and financing fleet are “working through the options in terms of what are the different scenarios.”
New cabin details
In the middle of November, reports suggested that the airline could be planning a ‘business class plus’ feature for the premium travel section of the plane. This new subdivision of business class would give passengers the ability to upgrade their experience for something a little more special.
This concept, which could also be considered ‘first class lite,’ would see additional space allocated to the first row of business class. The survey, sent out by Air New Zealand, suggests that, compared to the other seats in the cabin, row one would have more legroom, a ‘shared dining experience,’ and greater privacy.
As yet, there have been no leaks of what the new product would look like or which manufacturers are in the running. Still, we can get some insight by looking at other airlines that are already flying this type of offer.
With the new aircraft set to be the airline’s flagship jets, it’s likely that they’ll also receive these new seats. After all, a new aircraft means that there’s no need to deal with a retrofit and removal of existing seats, making it the perfect opportunity to install a new product.
Ultimately, “late 2022” and early 2023 are quite a while away, and much could change over the course of 2021. We’ll have to keep an eye on Air New Zealand and what it decides to do with its multi-billion-dollar order of long-range jets!