Air New Zealand is renewing its focus on the Economy section on long-haul planes and will now have five seating options throughout the aircraft.
The airline has released details of its Economy Stretch, which for between $175 to $250 per long-haul leg will give passengers a little over 10cm extra space between their seat and the one in front.
Although there is more legroom in the new section for those willing to pay extra, the airline has also revealed an extra squeeze comes on passengers in standard economy seats.
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The extra seat pitch is to meet growing demand from those in economy and also gives the airline another weapon in its fight against low-cost carriers, which in other parts of the world are increasingly flying long-haul routes.
According to Peter Harbison, chairman emeritus of CAPA Centre for Aviation, the long-haul low-cost growth could transform aviation over the next decade.
The Qantas group, which includes Jetstar, had ordered dozens of extra long-range A321s capable of flying from Australia or New Zealand as far as Japan.
Air New Zealand's chief revenue officer Cam Wallace said at CAPA's aviation summit in Auckland that althoughhis airline didn't see a long-haul low-cost airline on the horizon, if one did emerge the increased range of cabin options would allow it to better compete.
A ''naked'' or pure low-cost carrier had only one weapon: low fares.
If competitors were prepared to match those fares they could be in trouble, especially in this part of the world, said Wallace.
The new Economy Stretch is additional to standard Economy, Economy Skycouch, Premium Economy and Business Premier.
''Legacy carriers over the past 20 years have done a pretty poor job of focusing on all segments of the aircraft," he said.
''We've been pretty focused on high-value customers or customers in premium cabins. A big theme emerging at Air New Zealand and United and other partner airlines is this micro segmentation - delivering different products to different customers.''
Up to 42 Economy Stretch seats will have a 35in (88cm) pitch - the distance between seats. This is up from the standard pitch that starts at 78.7cm in economy and is part of a wide-ranging review of aircraft layout. Those in Economy Stretch would also get a premium headset and a special pillow.
The new section will be fitted to Boeing 777s and 787-9 Dreamliners from the end of next year.
Wallace said Economy Stretch would be ''significantly revenue positive'' for the airline.
That meansthe total number of seats would stay the same in the aircraft, so some passengers in standard economy will have about 2.5cm less legroom.
Asked if the airline was squeezing people further forward, he said: ''Our pitch at the back of the plane, even where it is reduced, is still competitive with a low-cost carrier and we offer more pitch and more comfort than they do.''
The airline already has strong demand for economy seats with extra room - such as in exit rows - that cost more but not as much as the new product.
Air New Zealand has an alliance with United Airlines, which has been offering a similar product for more than 10 years.
The airline's director of sales for Australia and New Zealand, Julie Reid, said it charged about US$150 ($239) for a long-haul segment.
Its Economy Plus seats had 12.7cm extra leg room and had been popular.
''People love it - if you're very tall and going to the US to have that extra legroom is amazing.''
Flight Centre says Air New Zealand's ''in between'' product would be a winner.
"Premium economy has become increasingly popular and more accessible in price over the past couple of years, but there is still often a substantial jump in cost between Economy and Premium,'' said a spokesperson.
Air New Zealand is also working a major overhaul of its Business Premier seats and details are expected to be released soon.