Air New Zealand has unveiled a cabin mock-up of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner and has revealed it will debut on the Auckland-Perth route.
The aircraft will be fitted with 302 seats with 18 lie flat seats in the business premier cabin, 21 new design seats in premium economy and 263 in the two economy cabins.
The seats fitted in the mock cabin near the airline's Auckland headquarters are made by United States-based firm Zodiac are noticeably slimmer than those on comparable planes and a test in the tightest economy seat showed passengers are able to work on laptops, something that is difficult on smaller planes used on transtasman routes.
The airline is due to get the first of its 787-9 series planes around the middle of next year and it will start carrying passengers to Perth from the middle of October. It is a stretched version of the model that's been in service since 2011 and is nearly 7m longer and with greater passenger capacity and range.
Air New Zealand's 787 programme director Kerry Reeves said the aircraft would initially replace Boeing 767s on short-haul routes around the Pacific, Asia and Japan. The configuration of the cabin was skewed towards more seats in economy.
"We've designed the aircraft for the route network so that means the premium (seat) count on the aircraft is probably less than what you'd see on other longhaul aircraft," he said.
The mock-up is believed to be the only full scale one outside Boeing's home base in Seattle and will be used for crew and staff training as well as familiarising the travel industry and customers with the plane.
Reeves said the economy seat pitch or distance between them was 31 inches (78.7cm) or 32 inches. At 17.2 inches the seats are slightly wider than those aboard the airline's 777-300s economy cabins but narrower than the 18-inch industry standard rival plane maker Airbus is pushing for.
New inflight entertainment systems were more compact.
'We've taken advantage of new inflight entertainment hardware and that's allowed us to introduce new monitors and also allowed us to slim down the back of the seat considerably from those which have had inflight entertainment. (in the past) That allows much more personal space."
The seat back entertainment monitors in economy are slightly smaller than on 777s but have higher resolution while those in premium economy are larger.
Flight Centre NZ's general manager of product Simon McKearney said customers would be excited about the new aircraft.
"It's quite a good combinaton because you've got efficient cost effective aircraft and if you combine that with some fairly luxurious travel that's pretty exciting from a business travel point of view. The whole experience is improving - the Middle Eastern carriers are driving the benchmark but Air New Zealand is certainly keeping up," he said.
The Air New Zealand seat count compares to 335 on Jetstar's smaller 8-series Dreamliner although Japanse airline ANA has as few as 158 seats in the earlier model plane where there is a heavy emphasis on the premium seats.
While the Dreamliner was hit by delays of three years and serious battery issues earlier this year, almost 100 have been delivered and close to 1000 are on order. Boeing estimates there could be 3300 delivered during the next 17 years.