Air New Zealand today revealed its first refitted Boeing 747-400 featuring lie-flat beds, digital in-flight entertainment at every seat and a new class of travel for the New Zealand market called Pacific Premium Economy.
The new long-haul fleet design and physical refit of the first aircraft has taken more than 60,000 hours of work, with the airline's fleet of eight 747s expected to take until mid-next year to complete, at a cost of approximately NZ$160 million.
"This is an exciting new era of travel being introduced from Air New Zealand. Inside this first aircraft is a range of products that are recognised as the world's best, coupled with a design that is all about New Zealand," said Air New Zealand Managing Director and CEO Ralph Norris.
"As our country is so inspiring, we believe the journey to get there should be too, so we've considered every aspect of the customer's experience including new blankets, duvets and pillows, the introduction of Living Nature skincare products as well as newly designed crockery right down to river-stone themed salt and pepper sets."
The new interior is configured in a three class layout of Business Premier, Pacific Premium Economy and Pacific Economy.
The innovative design in Business Premier includes a comfortable, 22" wide leather armchair that converts into a 6ft 7.5" (2.02m) bed that is the longest available in Business Class today and also makes Air New Zealand the only airline to offer a truly lie-flat bed at a Business Class price into and out of New Zealand. Other features include an ottoman footrest that doubles as a visitor's seat, in-seat power, a high resolution 10.4" screen to view the on-demand digital entertainment system and active noise-cancellation headsets.
The unique herringbone seating configuration means direct aisle access for all passengers. Seating for 46 is available in the two front cabins on the 747's main deck and in the front half of the upper deck.
The new class of Pacific Premium Economy is located on the upper deck with seating for 23 and features the largest pitch in its class at 38"-40" together with a generous seat width of 18.5". On-demand digital entertainment is through a personal 8.4" high resolution screen.
The new class makes Air New Zealand the only airline to be offering premium economy seating on services to and from New Zealand.
"With Pacific Premium Economy fares available at just 25-30% more than economy fares we have seen strong bookings, particularly for San Francisco and London, with a total of more than 7,000 sectors booked across North America and London routes," said Mr Norris.
Air New Zealand's Pacific Economy class includes seating for 324 and retains the airline's leading 34" seat pitch, together with on-demand digital entertainment through high resolution 8.4" in-seat video screens.
The seat, designed by well known seat manufacturer Recaro, includes a slim-line shape, memory foam cushioning to shape to the passenger and a flexible seat edge for extra comfort.
The first 747 aircraft will initially fly some Tasman and Los Angeles services on an ad-hoc basis, before commencing scheduled services between Auckland and San Francisco from 7 August.
Further aircraft will be refitted approximately every six weeks, with completed aircraft to be progressively introduced on the Auckland - Los Angeles - London route (flights NZ1 & NZ2) from 5 November and other routes during 2006.
"Today's announcement sets a platform for the company to grow its long-haul business, with financial benefits of the new offering expected to commence in the second half of 2006, once the entire fleet is refitted," said Mr Norris.
"With gearing at an historic low, cash reserves of NZ$1.1 billion, strategies in place to lower operating costs and our new long-haul offering now a reality, Air New Zealand has never been better placed to face the challenges ahead such as fuel prices and intense competition."
Mr Norris said the design and refit process had been a technical challenge that was well managed by staff.
"For the past two years hundreds of staff have been involved in developing a new long-haul strategy, creating a design and then commencing the installation of the new product here at our engineering base.
"It has been a huge commitment from the company to get us to the point where we can now begin to reclaim our position as the best long-haul carrier in the world.
"I am extremely proud of everything that our staff have achieved and I look forward to seeing the rest of the fleet completed over the next 12 months."
The same interior design will be used on Air New Zealand's eight new Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, the first of which is due to arrive in October this year.
Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs
Phone Mark Street, Communications Manager, on 021 747 583
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.