Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon has defended his airline seats after a complaint from a shareholder at the company's annual meeting.

A shareholder asked why seats in the economy cabin were so close together as to make them uncomfortable in Boeing 777s and the aisle too narrow to get out in an emergency.

Luxon said the airline surveyed a panel of 4000 customers every month and they rated seats highly.

''A lot of our feedback from our international visitors who travel out of America to New Zealand on Air New Zealand tell us it is an infinitely superior product than what they experience from their airlines at home.''

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Luxon said the 10-abreast seating in economy in 777s was common among airlines.

The airline also had to ensure routes were economic.

Two widebody aircraft were needed to start a long-haul route from New Zealand and this would cost $350 million, plus $150m in operating costs a year.

They needed to be 80 per cent full on every flight.

''Sitting in my shoes that's the economic case for opening up new routes,'' said Luxon.

He told shareholders that the 777s fully complied with aviation regulations.