Speaking at the event, Mr Norris said it was an honour and a privilege to be in Toulouse to accept the first aircraft and he paid tribute to the work of Air New Zealand staff.

"It goes without saying that the entire company is excited with our acquisition and is very much looking forward to welcoming ZK-OJA home, closely followed by the three other A320 aircraft we will have in service by the end of the year.

"I would like to acknowledge the people of Air New Zealand - it has truly been a team effort - with our people in flight operations and network logistics, our pilots and cabin crew, our engineers, fleet experts, corporate, operational and technical staff, and those who are working on marketing our new A320 service," said Mr Norris.

Present at the ceremony were senior executives from International Aero Engines (IAE), the suppliers of the V2500 engines which will power the new aircraft; International Leasing Finance Corporation, financiers of the aircraft; Airbus representatives and those from Air New Zealand, including the team who will deliver the aircraft back home on a flight leaving Toulouse the next day (16 September local time) and arriving in Auckland at midday on Sunday 21 September.

In Toulouse to provide a traditional New Zealand flavour, were members of the Ngati Ranana London Maori Club who performed a prayer and blessing of the aircraft and led the singing of Pokare kare Ana at the closure of the ceremony.

Air New Zealand will have a total of seven A320 aircraft in service by March 2004 with the remaining A320s joining the fleet by early 2006, progressively replacing the Boeing 737 and 767 aircraft which currently operate on the airline's short haul international routes.

Introducing the Airbus A320 aircraft to the Air New Zealand fleet represents a strategic change in the service and products the airline will be offering to its short-haul international customers on its Tasman and South Pacific routes.

"We are confident our customers will notice a difference in the A320 service - not only the lower fares and increased frequency of flights, but also the additional in-flight comfort provided within the cabin of the new aircraft," said Mr Norris.

Delivery Flight Commences Tomorrow

The delivery journey of Air New Zealand's newest aircraft, which begins tomorrow in France, is one of the longest ever devised for the short-haul Airbus A320.

With a flight range of up to 5,550 kilometres, the 22,700 kilometre journey of the Airbus A320 has been broken into five stages starting at the Airbus factory in Toulouse , across the Atlantic, Canada, the US and then into the Pacific and down to New Zealand for a noon arrival this coming Sunday, September 21.

The first stop across the Atlantic is Gander, New Foundland which lies, in aviation terms, at the crossroads of Europe and North America. Gander is a unique stopover, not only on the Great Circle Route of optimum flying time across the Atlantic, but one of the few places in the world where a Russian passenger jet could share the runway with an American spy plane and a fleet of German fighter aircraft. It is also a designated alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle and the North Atlantic Centre of communications and air traffic control.

One of the pioneer airports handling aircraft in the early days of trans-Atlantic travel because of its geographic location (only 4.5 hours from London) and clear weather record, Gander is now one of the world's busiest 'ferry stops' for aircraft deliveries - from commercial jets like the Airbus A320 to scores of private jets being delivered to owners in the US and beyond.

Captain Mike Henderson, one of Air New Zealand's most experienced pilots and the A320 Fleet Captain will share the command of the Air New Zealand delivery flight with A320 Training Captain Gerry Dunn. Between them, the delivery pilots have 45 years flying experience. They are accompanied on the flight deck by Airbus flying instructor Captain George Roper.

A three-strong Air New Zealand engineering team, who flew to Toulouse to conduct a week-long scrutiny of all engineering elements of the new aircraft as part of the transfer of title process, will fly home on the special service which is operating as flight number NZ6320.

A total of 20 cabin crew will travel with the aircraft, taking the opportunity of a hands-on training experience onboard the first aircraft of its type to enter the Air New Zealand fleet.

Remaining behind in Toulouse is Air New Zealand's Technical Liaison Manager Rex Wilson who has been resident in France for the past year overseeing the construction and delivery process and is now working on the next two Airbus A320's near completion and due for delivery within the next month.

After arrival on Sunday the first aircraft, registered as ZK-OJA, will spend a week in the Air New Zealand hangar at Auckland airport for minor finishing work before entering service with a VIP flight on Monday 29 September.

A320 photo and delivery flight map attached.

A320. A320 Delivery Route Map

NOTE: The content of all Air New Zealand media releases are accurate at the time of issue, as stated at the top of each release. For updates on any changes, please contact Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand is proud to be a member of Star Alliance. The Star Alliance network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer worldwide reach, recognition and seamless service to the international traveller. Its acceptance by the market has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Air Transport World Market Leadership Award, Best Airline Alliance by both Business Traveller Magazine and Skytrax. The member airlines are: Adria Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, Blue1, bmi, Continental Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, THAI, United and US Airways. Aegean Airlines, Air India, Brussels Airlines and TAM have been announced as future members. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers 19,500 daily flights to 1,071 airports in 171 countries.

For more information about Air New Zealand visit www.airnewzealand.com and for more information about Star Alliance visit www.staralliance.com.