Air NZ's new 787 heading to Tokyo, Shanghai

An artist's impression of Air NZ's new Boeing 787-9 'dreamliner' aircraft, that will soon be flying between New Zealand and Asia.
An artist's impression of Air NZ's new Boeing 787-9 'dreamliner' aircraft, that will soon be flying between New Zealand and Asia.

Air New Zealand has revealed it will fly its Boeing 787 Dreamliner to long haul destinations Shanghai and Tokyo along with mid-haul routes to Perth, Honolulu and Papeete.

Details of the cabin have also been announced with a new seat design throughout the economy section.

The airline is due to take delivery of the 787-9 next year and the airline's chief executive Christopher Luxon said the planes represented a significant growth opportunity and open up the prospect of expanding its Pacific Rim footprint.

The first of the 9-series planes is due to roll of the assembly line next month at Boeing's plant in Everett, north of Seattle.

Design and production delays have pushed back delivery to Air NZ and other airlines by up to four years.

The aircraft offers fuel savings of up to 20 per cent compared to older equivalent size planes and Luxon said it was "a game-changer" for the airline.

"The airline will be able to offer a consistent product experience across its long haul fleet.''

This includes Skycouch seating in the economy cabin, a new slim-line customised seat in economy, an ink-coloured luxury leather seat in premium economy which the airlines says is "business lite''. Business premier will have lie-flat beds.

Air New Zealand will get 10 of the 787-9s over four years and they will replace Boeing 767s.

The first model of the aircraft, the 787-8 series, was plagued by delays in the design and building phase and since entering service has been hit by further problems, including smouldering batteries which led to 50 planes being grounded for three months.

In 2004, Air New Zealand signed up for the first model of the plane, but became the first airline to upgrade to the longer 9-series when it was launched soon afterwards.

The Dreamliner will be delivered four years behind schedule. The late delivery has disrupted Air New Zealand's fleet planning and impacted its bottom line.

The plane, with its revolutionary carbon-fibre fuselage and composite wings, is lighter, offers big fuel savings, is quieter and has a more comfortable cabin environment for up to 290 passengers.

Being a launch customer carries some risk - Air New Zealand's first planes will initially be used as test aircraft - but the airline received special deals and will also reap publicity benefits as the new model is launched with fanfare by Boeing.

Although the 9-series plane has heavier landing gear and a new air conditioning system among other modifications, it is largely the same as the earlier model, which has been through the certification process and is now having its technical wrinkles ironed out.

Boeing is building the first 787-9 test planes on a temporary "surge line" at Everett, where it will be shown to journalists and analysts tomorrow.

When the test aircraft have been put through their paces, they will be kitted out for Air New Zealand, which purchased them at a discount as part of the launch customer deal.

Air New Zealand will receive 10 of the planes over a four-year period.

They have a list price of around US$200 million ($258 million).

•Grant Bradley is visiting Seattle courtesy of Boeing and Air NZ.

- NZ Herald

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