Air New Zealand plans to begin commercial service with the Airbus A321neo on November 12.
Pictures and video of Air New Zealand’s first A321neo released on Wednesday showed the aircraft has been painted in the airline’s all-black livery.
Although currently sporting German registration D-AZAX, the A321neo was expected to carry New Zealand registration ZK-NNA when handed over. The aircraft was expected to be delivered in late September or early October.
It is one of seven A321neos and six A320neos Air New Zealand has on firm order that are earmarked for its Australia and Pacific Islands network. The airline has chosen Pratt and Whitney PG1000G engines to power its A320neo and A321neo fleet.
They will replace current A320ceos, offering both better fuel efficiency and additional capacity, as well as an improved passenger experience through larger overhead storage, new inflight entertainment systems and inflight internet Wi-Fi.
The A321neos have been configured to seat 214 passengers in a single-class layout, a increase of 27 per cent, or 46 seats, from from the 168-seat A320ceos.
Meanwhile, the Air New Zealand said its A320neos will have 165 seats.
“These new aircraft are key to enabling us to grow our short haul network while offering our customers a great inflight experience,” Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said in a statement.
Air New Zealand is the first airline in Oceania to operate the A320neo family of aircraft. However, it will not be the first to operate the type to Australia.
In early July, Philippine Airlines became the first carrier to fly a A320neo family aircraft to Australia, when it commenced four times weekly non-stop flights between Manila and Brisbane with the A321neo. The A321neo replaced the A340-300 that PAL previously used to serve Brisbane.
Royal Brunei Airlines (RBA) followed with the A320neo in August, when it substituted the next generation narrowbody in place of the Boeing 787-8 for two Bandar Seri Begawan-Melbourne-Bandar Seri Begawan rotations.
The equipment downgauge was due to engine inspection requirements for its Boeing 787 fleet.
Air New Zealand said it planned to have two A321neos enter commercial service in November, with the first A320neo due to arrive in the fleet in February 2019. The remaining 11 aircraft will be delivered by the end of calendar 2019.
A look through flights schedules on the Air New Zealand website showed an A321neo operating NZ707 from Auckland to Sydney on November 12. The flight was due to depart at 1100 and arrive at 1235.
The seats to be fitted on Air New Zealand’s A320neo/A321neo fleet were unveiled in April 2017.
The leather seats, from United Kingdom-based Acro Aircraft Seating and New Zealand-based Flight Interiors, features window and aisle seats one centimetre wider than those on its existing A320ceos, while the middle seats are three centimetres wider.
Luxon said the design of the cabin was based on passenger feedback.
“We extensively tested and refined the neo inflight experience with customers to ensure we could incorporate their feedback while meeting regulatory and operating requirements and we’re confident we’ve delivered an inflight experience our customers are going to enjoy,” Luxon said.
Air New Zealand adding A321neos to domestic network
In addition to the seven A321neos and six A320neos for international flights, Air New Zealand in August announced it had signed a commitment for seven A321neo that will be deployed on its domestic network.
Currently, Air New Zealand has 17 A320ceos operating in its home market, where the airline has increased capacity by about 20 per cent since 2016 through increased utilisation.
The domestic fleet would be expanded to 20 aircraft in 2019, with the temporary transfer of A320ceos currently used on the trans-Tasman routes redeployed into the New Zealand market.
The fleet will stay at 20 aircraft from the the time domestic-configured A321neos start arriving in 2020 and replace A320ceos on a one-for-one basis until all seven have been delivered in 2024.
Air New Zealand said this would enable seat growth of about 25 per cent from 2018 to 2024.
These domestic A321neos were scheduled to be delivered between 2020 and 2024.
VIDEO: Air New Zealand’s first Airbus A321neo being painted from the airline’s YouTube channel.