Air New Zealand has taken delivery of the first of four Boeing 787-9 featuring a premium heavy configuration that offers more flexibility in how it deploys the fleet as markets develop.
The 787-9, ZK-NZL, landed in Auckland a little before 1900 local time on Sunday, following its ferry flight from the United States.
It is Air New Zealand’s first Dreamliner to be configured in what the airline has termed its “Code 2” cabin layout, comprising 27 seats in business, 33 in premium economy and 215 in economy for a total of 275.
This represented a 20 per cent increase in premium seats compared with the other nine 787-9s already in the fleet, which have 302 seats spread across 18 business and 21 premium economy seats and 263 in economy.
The aircraft has been earmarked to operate the airline’s Auckland-Houston service from December 2017, replacing the Boeing 777-200ER that Air New Zealand currently uses on the route.
Prior to that, Air New Zealand said in a statement on Monday ZK-NZL was scheduled to begin commercial service on Sunday October 15 with a Auckland-Sydney-Auckland rotation.
Air New Zealand showed off the interiors of ZK-NZL on its Instagram account.
The Star Alliance member and Virgin Australia alliance partner has said previously it planned to take delivery of two 787-9s with the heavier premium configuration in 2017/18, with a further two to follow in 2018/19.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said recently the lower seat count of these “Code 2” 787-9s offered the airline more flexibility.
“What we’re identifying is as we grow and build these markets, we are going to put different aircraft on at different times as we see the mix of customers change and evolve and become more premium ultimately,” Luxon told analysts during the company’s full year results presentation on August 22.
“So for the Code 2s, yes, we felt we wanted more premium seats and there’s some opportunities in the number of places around the world.
“It gives us an ability to extend range obviously with a lot less economy passengers on board.”
Air New Zealand deploys its 787-9s mainly on trans-Tasman, Pacific Island and Asian services, while its Boeing 777-200ER and 777-300ERs are predominantly used on flights to the Americas. In recent times, the airline has also been using the 787-9 to Buenos Aires.