"Our Premium Economy cabin has shown itself to be recession proof, with demand continuing to rise since its introduction in 2005," says Air New Zealand Group General Manager International Airline Ed Sims.

"While the nature of our long haul sectors has leant itself to selling the added space and service of Premium Economy, none of this has come at the expense of Business Premier, which offers one of the longest beds in the sky."

Air New Zealand's new 'Spaceseat' is a totally new concept for Premium Economy in the airline industry, providing flexibility and privacy through the angle of the seats. They will be configured in a 2-2-2 layout, compared to the industry standard 3-3-3 in 777-200s.

"There was no Premium Economy seat available in the market that delivered the exclusive style of customer experience we were looking for. The only answer was to design our own," says Mr Sims.

"Contour of Wales will manufacture the seat under license, providing us with a new and lucrative revenue stream when other airlines want to buy the 'best in class' seat.

"This is a game changing product for Premium Economy which will have our competitors playing catch up for several years. Already Boeing has indicated they're interested in the seats as a Business Class option for their 737 range."

The seats feature hard back shells so a passenger in front cannot recline into the personal space of the person behind, with seat recline created by a base that slides forward and angles up.

The centre seats angle outwards from each other, providing ultimate privacy or the space can be combined so couples can snuggle together or even dine at a common table. The sets of two window seats are angled so as to offer the ultimate privacy for individual passengers.

"With our focus on providing customer choice, we've created seating options with our 'Inner Space' and 'Outer Space' seats, which will offer very different propositions for couples or single travellers," says Mr Sims.

The 340 seat 777-300 aircraft will be configured with 246 in Economy (including 66 seats creating 22 Skycouch combinations), 50 in Premium Economy and 44 in Business Premier.

The current 777-200 aircraft seat 304 passengers with 242 in economy, 36 in Premium Economy and 26 in Business Premier. The 747-400 aircraft seat 379 with 294 in Economy, 39 in Premium Economy and 46 in Business Premier.

The airline first introduced Premium Economy in 2005 on its 747-400 aircraft and within two years had increased the number of seats from 23 to 39, and mid last year doubled the number of seats on its 777-200 aircraft from 18 to 36.

Premium Economy will be priced similar to today's Premium Economy airfares, starting from a third more than standard Economy fares. Full airfare details will be announced when it goes on sale from late April.

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Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs ph +64 9 336 2761