The soon-to-be refurbished 747 aircraft will be named after (in alphabetical order): Auckland, Bay of Islands, Christchurch, Dunedin, Kaikoura, Rotorua, Queenstown and Wellington.

Each location will be represented by an image approximately two metres long, which will be applied to the outside of the 747s in a prominent location near the front of each aircraft.

Air New Zealand Group General Manager Marketing, Network and Sales Norm Thompson says the initiative, announced at the New Zealand Tourism Conference, will assist the airline to showcase internationally some of the nation's special and inspiring locations.

"We are committed to promoting New Zealand globally as a quality tourist destination and the images chosen highlight the country's natural beauty," says Mr Thompson.

"The themed aircraft will be another step in helping us to deliver a uniquely Kiwi experience and an inspiring journey to our customers. We expect by the time a passenger has finished their international flight they will have learned a lot about the destination the aircraft is named after through our in-flight staff, the Air New Zealand magazine and later on from our new in-flight entertainment programming.

"We also expect that the naming and associated imagery on our aircraft will foster a sense of pride within the communities of the respective localities named - as well as by New Zealanders travelling abroad," he says.

In future the rest of Air New Zealand's international fleet will be named after other destinations around New Zealand. Those destinations are yet to be selected and allocated to aircraft, Mr Thompson says.

The Minister of Tourism, Mark Burton has welcomed Air New Zealand's announcement.

"This new promotion is an exciting and creative way of having images of some of our most popular tourism destinations seen around the world.

"Our beautiful scenery is one of the major selling points to international travelers and promoting the diversity of the New Zealand landscape will further enhance New Zealand's perception as a quality tourist destination," he says.

The destinations to feature on the Boeing 747 fleet are a combination of high profile tourist destinations and New Zealand's main metropolitan centres, which are key points on the airline's network and gateways to exploring New Zealand further.

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.