Herald aviation correspondent Grant Bradley looks at the trends exciting the plane nerds.
1. New planes
The newest widebody plane, the Airbus A350 XWB, is about to enter service. It is the latest in a new breed of aircraft: lightweight, fuel-efficient and offering new passenger comfort. Air New Zealand also has three Boeing 787-900 Dreamliners in its fleet: they are performing beyond expectations and are getting rave reviews.
The airline loves the plane and has ordered two additional Dreamliners, which will take the fleet up to 12 by the end of 2018. These new-generation planes will become ubiquitous around the world with all airlines under pressure to upgrade and keep up with competitors. Even the United States carriers are upgrading their fleets after years of low or no profits have put the brakes on spending.
2. New airlines
New Zealand hasn't benefited from the influx of foreign carriers in the same way that Australian travellers have during the past few years, but there are signs of a shift as yields look better here than across the Tasman. China Eastern Airlines dipped its toe in our waters last summer and is back with a seasonal service that will build up to once daily. One of the other three big Chinese carriers - Air China, based in Beijing - is in talks to form a joint venture with Air NZ, which is likely to see direct links resume with the Chinese capital. This is good news for the $1 billion Chinese visitor market and great for New Zealand travellers to China and beyond. There have been rumours of a US airline flying directly to New Zealand, but they would be up against a formidable competitor in Air NZ, which is strengthening its grip on that patch.
Long may it continue and grow. Anyone who enjoys low-cost flying should toast Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar. Hawaiian Airlines has added substantial capacity to the island state and its continued presence has forced Air NZ to re-examine its services. Competitive pressure means you'll get a better meal in the economy section of Qantas planes as you will when flying China Southern, whose full menu revamp should better suit Kiwi travellers in particular.
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Pricing is still keen on the Tasman but keep an eye on fares there. Effectively, the market is owned by two airline groups - Air NZ/Virgin Australia and Emirates/Qantas - own that market, and although regulators have set rules the airlines will further refine their fares as their relationships mature.
4. New routes
These have been slow to materialise but the pace is picking up. Air New Zealand confirmed on Friday that they would start a three-day a week service to Buenos Aires in December 2015. They are also resuming flights to Singapore in January after a seven-year absence They are also looking at a new destination in the US with Chicago, Houston and Las Vegas in the running. Chicago is a hub for alliance partner United Airlines but Houston is seen as having easier access to more diverse destinations.
5. Better airport experiences
Auckland Airport has upgraded its international baggage area. There are more Primary Industry counters for arriving passengers and there are plans to expand the security screening area for departing passengers. A shame about the domestic terminal for the moment, but there are plans for a complete rebuild. Those with lounge privileges can now enjoy a new Air NZ regional lounge at Auckland and plans are being made for upgrades in other provincial centres. The overcrowded Air NZ international lounge is being rebuilt in a larger space at Auckland and in Sydney, is likely to be rebuilt in Brisbane and in Los Angeles it has just moved to an acclaimed Star Alliance space in Tom Bradley Terminal. Other carriers are also pouring big money into their lounges around the world.