Air New Zealand will invest more than NZ$100 million (currently about AUD79.2 million) to upgrade its Boeing 777-200ER fleet of eight aircraft so it can offer the same cabin features as its larger 777-300ERs.
Air New Zealand Deputy chief executive Norm Thompson says the upgrade will ensure the carrier continues to deliver the most innovative product and technologies to passengers on its international network.
Work is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2014 and the aim is to complete it with a year. The upgraded 777-200ERs may well help in the Australia-New Zealand commercial agreement with Virgin Australia.
B777s are increasingly a favoured workhorse of the world’s international airlines. Qantas has none (having chosen some years ago not to buy any) but its new commercial alliance partner Emirates is the world’s largest operator of the aircraft type.
Air New Zealand’s first B777-200ER entered service with the airline in 2005 and the type has proven highly efficient throughout the airline’s network. The 304-seat 777-200ER aircraft currently operate various international routes.
“With the introduction of the 777-300ERs over the past 18 months and the arrival of the 787-9s in mid 2014, the 777-200ER fleet will be upgraded to align the product across all of the three long-haul fleet types,” Thompson said yesterday.
“We will be delivering the latest technology to our customers, including the Inflight Entertainment System developed in conjunction with Panasonic which will bring the latest in technology with improved resolution and capacitive touch monitors to all seats in the aircraft.”
The new system, called Panasonic eXlite will have improved system performance along with significant weight savings through better component design and architecture. Air New Zealand will be the launch customer for the new system on the 777-200ER.
As well as the new IFE system changes, Thompson says the upgrade will introduce the new elements of the Air New Zealand brand refresh seen in the interiors of the 777-300ER and A320 domestic aircraft.
This will see the Business Premier seats on the 777-200ER upgraded to match that on the 777-300ER, and the complete replacement of the Premium Economy and Economy seats.
“Air New Zealand was the first to deliver a lie-flat sleeping experience to our Economy customers through our hugely successful Skycouch product, and we are excited about enabling many more customers to experience this on our 777-200ERs,” Thompson added.
Written by : Peter Needham