Air New Zealand ditches its premium economy SpaceSeat

Air New Zealand ditches its premium economy SpaceSeat

Air New Zealand will ditch the unique premium economy Spaceseat of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in favour of the more conventional seat flown on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners (below).

The Kiwi airline today confirmed a move that's long been expected, which will boost the number of premium economy seats on the Boeing 777s from 44 to 54.

Launched in early 2011, the advanced SpaceSeat – clad in white leather upholstery and encased in a fixed shell module – has been criticised for lack of legroom (AirNZ eventually remedied this by removing one row of seats from the Boeing 777-300ER's premium cabin) and minimal recline.

“When we unveiled the Spaceseat in 2010, it was revolutionary and clearly the best option in the market at the time, as a string of international awards has proven" says Carrie Hurihanganui, Air New Zealand’s General Manager for Customer Experience (below).

"However, seating technology and materials have come a long way since then and our customer research now shows consistently higher satisfaction scores for our newest Premium Economy offering so it’s time to continue Air New Zealand’s evolution in this space.

Air New Zealand opted for a very different seat on the Boeing 787-9 (below) and subsequently refit of Boeing 777-200ER jets.

Read: Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 premium economy seat review

The Boeing 777-300 refurb will span from February to November 2017 and also see the long-range jets receive a 'refreshed' Business Premier seat.

Air New Zealand will also tweak the layout of its next three Boeing 787-9s, slated for delivery from October 2017, with a clear focus on the premium end of the plane.

The number of business class seats will rise from 18 to 27, with premium economy seats going to 21 to 33, while the economy cabin will shrink from 263 seats to just 215.

PREVIOUS | Air New Zealand could axe the advanced premium economy SpaceSeat of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in favour of the more conventional seat introduced on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

AirNZ CEO Chris Luxon says the airline is currently running the ruler over the merits of both seats ahead of a 2017 refresh for its long-range Boeings.

"We haven't made a final decision yet, and we're in an advantageous position where we have two very good options in premium economy," Luxon told Australian Business Traveller at a meeting of Star Alliance airline CEOs in Zurich.

"We think that the SpaceSeat probably is an option where people really love it or find it doesn't work or recline as well," Luxon said of the seat's divisive nature when it comes to passenger opinion.

"We made the call on the Dreamliner and the Boeing 777-200 refurb to go with the new seat, and that’s rating superbly with our customers," Luxon added.

"When we go to refurbish the interiors of our Boeing 777-300s there's a chance we might flip that premium economy out and put in the same one we've got on the Dreamliner and the 777-200."

If adopted on the Boeing 777-300ER, the same seat would allow Air New Zealand to boost the number of premium economy passengers by some 50% per row, based on the SpaceSeat's current 2-2-2 layout and the 2-4-2 configuration of the Boeing 777-200ER.

Luxon admitted that he is leaning towards the newer seat and that "the key thing for us is we want to have consistent product everywhere... but we want to make sure we've got that right before we jump to a conclusion. We'll make a decision before the end of the year." 

Also read: Air New Zealand preps to launch inflight Internet

David Flynn travelled to Zurich as a guest of Star Alliance

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

David Flynn

David Flynn (David)

[email protected] / @djsflynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

26 Comments

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    9 Jun, 2016 07:01 am

    Can we end this fixation over fixed shell seats in non-Premium (First/Business) cabins? 

    A truly revolutionary option would be cramped bare seating at the front of the cabin to make space for bunk beds at the back. Pax can freely move between the two spaces throughout the flight. That's the only way you can marry the maths with comfort.

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  • BizTraveller

    BizTraveller

    9 Jun, 2016 07:07 am

    I did wonder when I last travelled on NZ2 from AKL to LHR how long the space seat how long they would last - personally I love them and it made my trip most comfortable. From what is being reported here you don't need to be an aviation analyst to do the math – the space seat days are indeed numbered.

    I am lucky enough to have experienced them both products and I know my favourite... I appreciate that they are not everyone’s cup of tea but I do remind people it’s not a Business Class seat - but in my opinion the closest you get without paying the business class premium.

    Air NZ have built a reputation of doing things differently – I hope decisions like this don’t make them indistinguishable from every other carrier.

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  • Serg

    Serg

    9 Jun, 2016 08:12 am

    Those SpaceSeats always inspire me to fly Air NZ (unfortunately do not use them because they in Star Alliance) while second “very good options in premium economy” is so blatantly plain that only deter me from even thinking to try them.

    Air NZ recently score few awards – sure not just because seats, but seats make huge role. And while I am not inspired by their J when everyone exposed with little if any privacy their SpaceSeats and SpaceCouch indeed innovative products that I would love to try.

    IMHO ditching SpaceSeats is stupid decision and hopefully they realize it before damage done.

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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    9 Jun, 2016 08:20 am

    Being 6 abreast ,instead of the normal 8 abreast, these seats were always marginal for Air NZ.  As soon as they had to remove a row because of legroom issues, they were doomed.  They used too much real estate and didn't command a premium compared with other airlines PE classes.'

    Air NZ signalled their intention to do away with these seats a few years ago when they announced the 787s (for which the Spaceseat was allegedly designed) would be arriving with a more conventional PE seat.

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  • mcglynp

    mcglynp

    9 Jun, 2016 09:05 am

     I have flown the spaceseat a number of times.  Its an outstanding seat in everyway apart from sleeping comfort where its not much better then economy.  I love it for assurance that the seat in front will not recline into my face, which happens on standard PE completly negating the benefit of the seat.  But I understand the reason why Air NZ would want to go conventional to maximise the return on the space. Just a shame as going conventional will make them a second choice on routes from Aus when you can fly direct in similar seating. 

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    9 Jun, 2016 11:46 am

    Consistency + Density = ditch SpaceSeat.

    It looked fantastic and was an intriguing experiment but it simply takes up too much space and gives no calf support. Air NZ had to charge somewhat uncompetitive PE prices too.

    The recliners at 41" pitch are, yes, a little dull, but they're a better product for ANZ's needs.

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  • RealKid

    RealKid

    9 Jun, 2016 12:51 pm

    This is a bit of a bummer, I really liked the Spaceseats the one time I flew them.

    I have to think this makes their trans-pac product a lot less competitive for those flying between Ausralia and North America.  At the moment they can pitch their 6 abreast and cool looking space seats as a notch above the competition to try and eat away at the disadvantage of having to stop in Auckland. 

    With these gone, they'll be competitive with Qantas and Virgin on product, but not on convenience.  I'm not sure how competitive they can be on price either once American fits its planes with premium economy, not to mention whatever Delta is pretending is premium economy these days.

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    9 Jun, 2016 02:12 pm

    I like both and NZ has won awards for its PE product on the 773's but I do understand why NZ wants to replace them with the current PE seats currently used on the 779's and 772's. 

    The SpaceSeat do not go down to well in the Asian markets, due to the complex way the seats recline resulting PE cabin crew having to spend time in showing Asian passengers how to use them. 

    Asian passengers like the 779/772's PE seats, as Christopher Luxon said, it makes sense to standard the PE product across all aircraft types. 

    I hope NZ looks hard at its Business Premier product and decide whether to update Business Premier to 1-2-1 seats like other carriers or go for a premier product called 'Premier' class - being PE with lay flat beds, as  PE passengers have the same food and beverage as Business Premier passengers. 

    The market that NZ in moving towards is a leisure market offering passengers a range of fares 'to suit seats' ranging from cheap fares for the rear seats to premium fares to the pointy end of the aircraft but still have 'friendly' cabin staff and food/entertainment regardless of the fare purchased on international long haul.

    At point to note - NZ will be announcing at the end of 2016, what type of aircraft type will be replacing the 772's from 2020. The options are the 778X or the A350-9 ULR which is what Airbus is doing a hard sell to NZ.

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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    9 Jun, 2016 04:42 pm

    The 789 is just fine as a 772 replacement.  The 778X and A359LR are both a little bit bigger and fly a lot longer routes.  They probably make sense if NZ decides to open a non-stop to  New York but other than that, they seem too much plane for Air NZ.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    9 Jun, 2016 08:06 pm

    The 789 has a far larger premium load as well as a slightly higher capacity than the 772, so no I don't think the 789 works fine as a 772 replacement. ANZ uses the 789 more as a replacement for its 767s than as a 772 replacement.

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  • StudiodeKadent

    StudiodeKadent

    9 Jun, 2016 08:12 pm

    Correction:

    I got the numbers around the wrong way. The 772 is what has a far larger premium load as well as a slightly higher capacity to the 789, so the 789 cannot replace the 772.

    The 787-10 will be the size of the 772 capacity-wise, but lack the range.

    The direct replacement for the 772 is the A359 (same size, lower operating costs, longer range), with the A359ULR being the replacement for the 772L.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 06:11 pm

    "..772 has a far larger premium load as well as slightly higher capacity to the 789, so the 789 cannot replace the 772."

    And completely ignoring the following realistic possibilities & facts:

    1.  NZ can hv more than 1 cabin config /premium vs Y ratio for 789 fleet especially when it is now only half way thru delivery of all 789 on firm order by NZ(let alone options).

    2.  Mkt has shifted and 772ER may no longer be the right size for some NZ routes nor its frequency strategy(Think connections  @ various *A hubs).

    "787-10 will be the size of the 772 capacity-wise.."

    Technically incorrect.  78J has a larger usable cabin floor area(i.e. regardless of chosen cabin config) than 772.  Capacity-wise, it sits roughly half-way between 35K/778 and 359/772.

    "A359ULR being the replacement for the 772L."

    Closest equivalent is probably a more accurate description. In std nominal configs per manufacturers, 359ULR carries far fewer than 200seats with little to no Y(Partly the reason for its ULR performance) while 77L carries 300seats+ along with normal Y ratio over similar range.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 05:16 pm

    "ANZ uses the 789 more as a replacement for its 767s than..."

    Your claim is interesting and in fact, consistent with the official NZ PR 'story' all along ever since NZ ordered 787 12yrs ago.  In practice @ NZ, 763ER fleet size(5 airframes) has been unchanged for @ least 8yrs while 789 x6 hv already joined NZ fleet for 2yrs....numbers are not adding-up for the 787 replacing 767 story.

    Those 787s hv been doing something in NZ network CLEARLY unrelated to replacing any 767.  In contrast, NZ routes used to be flown exclusively by 772ER such as AKL-NRT /PVG are now done almost entirely yr-round by 789.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 06:25 pm

    "789 is just fine as a 772 replacement."

    Which is precisely what has started happening @ NZ if we look deeper into which type is flying on which NZ route today vs before 2014 prior to 789 delivery.

    They are close enough in size for 1 to replace the other and we see similar examples(But in reverse) in how 359(i.e. slightly larger) has been replacing 343/333(i.e. slightly smaller) @ AY and CX.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 Jun, 2016 09:40 pm

    To remind, the topic here is Air NZ's SpaceSeat.

    As we continue to ask on articles across the site, please stick to the topic.

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  • Libertyscott

    Libertyscott

    9 Jun, 2016 07:05 pm

    Business Premier has always been 1-2-1 on 777s, but I can see NZ possibly moving towards the Cirrus forward facing concept seen on CX, AA etc. 

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    14 Jun, 2016 04:48 pm

    "NZ will be announcing @ the end of 2016, what type of aircraft type will be replacing the 772's from 2020."

    Can you please provide a link re the above?  Never heard of this and I failed to find any related news even after a google search.

    "..options are the 778X or the A350-9 ULR..."

    I'm very surprised these 2 are the only options for NZ to replace 772ER.  The longest current sector operated by NZ's 772ER is only about 15hrs yet both 778 and 359ULR are designed(And only economically justified) for 17-18hrs sectors & beyond.

    Neither actually make sense unless NZ is also planning some not-yet-disclosed major network changes(e.g. AKL-EWR nonstop).

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  • Jawn Beecee

    jawnbc

    9 Jun, 2016 06:19 pm

    I'm 1m68. Hate the Space Seat on an overnight flight: the meagre "bean bag" foot rest leaves me with a gap of about 4cm.  #leprechaunpride

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  • Libertyscott

    Libertyscott

    9 Jun, 2016 07:02 pm

    What isn't mentioned is weight.  This seats are relatively heavy and I was told a while ago by cabin crew that on a heavily laden flight it stopped the aircraft from reaching the most efficient cruising altitude till it had burned off enough fuel.  That sort of performance limitation isn't sustainable.  It's a shame, as I like them, primarily because you either have an aisle or a window seat and there is no recline into you space (and I always found a small hard suitcase is a useful footrest).

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    10 Jun, 2016 08:48 am

    I have heard similar comments about the SpaceSeats being to heavy.

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  • Ryan Stephen

    RaptorNation158

    9 Jun, 2016 09:32 pm

    Was good while it lasted.

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  • DB

    aussieboyaussie

    10 Jun, 2016 07:06 pm

    I only fly ANZ to the US via BNE because of this seat. If the seat goes, so do I. Seriously. 

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  • Kerry Neilsen

    KerryN

    16 Jun, 2016 01:50 pm

    We have booked to go to San Fransisco return with Air New Zealand only because of the spaceseat, paying more than double economy...I certainly wouldnt pay that to be stuck in the middle of four seats with a reclined seat in my face, may as well save your money and go economy..but I have noticed that ANZ sells spaceseat then sneakily puts you on 777.200.. My itinary says 777,300 from Brisbane to San Francisco and return,but will wait and see..!!

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  • klane

    klane

    22 Jun, 2016 12:11 pm

    Awaard winning

    X factor seat

    Business light

    whatever you want to call it - you nailed it ANZ - keep the SPACESEAT - how hard would it be to bring out a mark2  version given your expertise taking into account some of the neagative feedback

    dont ditch this seat for a few boring old nellies

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  • k  lane

    londoner

    13 Jul, 2016 12:16 pm

    Absolutley Not - Keep the SPACESEATS - they area bsolutley first class.

    The new PE seats are good but Mr luxon compared to what was on the 777-200 anything would be better

    Remember Go Beyond strategy - this extends to your product offer - dont go 'backwards'

    Ps - all those awards for teh Spaceseat - and you dump it!!!!!

     

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  • BizTraveller

    BizTraveller

    13 Jul, 2016 02:11 pm

    Interesting twist in the story - just announed overnight in the Skytrax World Airline Awards...

    AIR NEW ZEALAND Premium Economy cabin proves popular with customers as it is named the World's Best Premium Economy Class by travellers, and also took No 1 position for the world's Best Premium Economy Class cabin seats at the 2016 World Airline Awards.

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  • aviation

    aviation

    13 Jul, 2016 02:21 pm

    Interesting reading all the various comments on here.

    Firstly, I personally love the Spaceseat and think it is a great product.

    However, what most people probably don't realise is that for many people, it isn't a product they love. Reading many other airline forums, it is definitely a love/hate product, and if you're the CEO of a company, with 50% (or there abouts) of your customers that don't like a product, wouldn't you remove/replace it?!?

    Forget about the weight and potentially savings, it is a very simple decision!

    Like I say, I would like for it to stay, but I'm looking at this from an un-biased position knowing what other feedback the seat receives.

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  • AlexT

    AlexT

    22 Aug, 2016 04:32 pm

    Ahhhh. Well, there goes a bit of history.

    I support Air New Zealand's decision. It would give them a fatter pay-check, and from the airline's perspective it's the right thing to do.

    Well, for us, there is still a while until these planes are reconfigured... hopefully

    The new B787-9 layout is interesting. I'm guessing the front cabin will have the 27 Business class seats, with potentially 5 Premium Economy seats squished in, and another 4 rows (28 seats) of PE in the 2nd cabin of the Dreamliner. My guess is this plane in the new layout would probably fly to Houston and Vancouver replacing the B772s while adding frequency and potentially on the Singapore and Buenos Aires routes as well. Interesting!

    Maybe even the San Francisco route? It's quietly been 6-times-weekly service since United entered. Very quietly.

    Next up: A reconfiguration of the (more dense) B777-200ER moving to replace the existing B787-9 on Asian routes?

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    23 Aug, 2016 10:30 am

    You are correct about the 789's being used on the AKL/SFO and AKL/EZE and AKL./IAH for primary aircraft type backed up with the 772's for supplementary schedules.

    Air NZ is matching aircraft type with its competitors like Air NZ 789 with used on AKL/SFO same as UA 789 on the same route. 

    On the AKL/EZE and AKL/IAH routes,  the 789 is going to be used as it  is more economical to use compared to the 772. 

    The 773's will still be used on AKL/LAX/LHR services plus charter services. 

    The 789's will still be used as main aircraft type for all Asian routes, as the Asian markets prefer to fly on the 787's. It would not be in Air NZ must interested to use 772's on the Asian routes as main aircaft type.  The 772's are being used on the New Zealand to Japan summer charter flights. 

    The 772's are due for replacement from 2020 onwards, so it will be interesting to see what Air NZ going to replace them with. Air NZ has options on additional 4 789's.






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  • eminere

    eminere

    22 Aug, 2016 05:17 pm

    They had a good five-year run.

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  • henrus

    henrus

    22 Aug, 2016 05:19 pm

    Breaking overnight - 308 Premium Economy Seat for Sale, Airline will take best offer.

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  • David Furrows

    Nouflyer

    22 Aug, 2016 10:36 pm

    Like many others, the Spaceseat (and overnight flights both ways) has been why I fly Air NZ between Australia and the USA.

    But something else just changed. 

    As of last Friday, Air NZ has a year-round A$4600 Business Class return fare from the East Coast to LAX and SFO.

    I will miss the SpaceSeat. But only from the comfort of my Air NZ Business Premier bed.

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  • DB

    aussieboyaussie

    23 Aug, 2016 05:33 am

    I LOVE these seats. This is a terrible decision. Why not just modify the current seat to include a footrest?  It's a winner in my eyes and I've travelled on it for around 25+ flights.  

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  • k  lane

    londoner

    23 Aug, 2016 07:22 am

    Dear Air NZ - when you alternative PE products starts wining awards like the SPACESEAT has and did again thsi year at SKYTRAX - then you are in a position to suggest the 'world has caught up' . Replacement seat is BORING and reflects a lack of innovation which has been your hallmark. Well dne for joining every other airline with a so so product. 

    Note to Carrie - focus on areas where you dont win awards - Economy & Business Class - prehaps a message there

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    23 Aug, 2016 10:11 am

    The writing was on the wall for the SpaceSeats. Carrie Hurihanganui comments are correct about these seats. 

    The Asian market hated them prefering the current PE seats that are currently available on the 789/772's. 

    The US market liked, as it was better product to what is being offered by US carriers and there was love/hate relationship out of UK/Europe.  The NZ/Aust loved them due to short flight times.  I like them and these seats would be great on short and medium haul flights (under 6 hours) but for long haul flights (over 6 hours)  they would be a bit uncomfortable for some. 

    I wonder what the new 'refurbish' Business Premier' is going to be like. Does anybody now?



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  • Libertyscott

    Libertyscott

    23 Aug, 2016 11:30 am

    Ignoring the spin, the truth is that the Spaceseat was not "on the market", it was designed in-house and proved why a small airline shouldn't engage in bespoke seat design.  The Spaceseat is too heavy, and the business case failed when a row had to be removed to make them comfortable.  FWIW I was told by a flight attendant years ago that they were such a weight disadvantage that the 777-300s leaving LHR had to fly a couple of thousand feet lower, when heavily laden and with fuel, and could climb higher only after a few hours flying time.  

    Air NZ simply failed to model it adequately on the ground for a long trip (so that's why they were put too closely together) and ignored the weight issue on long haul flights of the length it flies.  

    Sadly, because I like them a lot, it means NZ loses a key differentiating point.  However, let's be clear, there was a lot else on the market when NZ chose to go bespoke, it was a big internal screwup that it is now extricating itself from.

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  • David Furrows

    Nouflyer

    23 Aug, 2016 12:23 pm

    Can they please just stick the discarded SpaceSeats on the Tasman A320 and 767 fleet and sell it as Business Class?

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    23 Aug, 2016 03:08 pm

    The 767's are being phased out after nearly nearly 22 years of service and the last 767 will leave Air NZ March 2017. 
    The 767's are being replaced by the 789's. 

    The new A321neo's will have standard business class seats, as they will be used on short haul international routes, being Australia and South Pacific Islands. Thre has been talk the might do Honolulu. 

    So the SpaceSeats might be sold or most likey be scrapped once Air NZ completes it NZ$100million cabin refit of the 773's with new Premium Econony and 'refreshed' Business Premier to bring the 773's into line with the 787 fleet.

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  • David Furrows

    Nouflyer

    23 Aug, 2016 03:47 pm

    I really hope the 777-300ER "refresh" does not include 789 Business Premier seating, which is higher density and has narrower shoulder room.

    Market forces have reduced Business Premier fare levels across the Pacific to barely more than Premium Economy. Hopefully this will not be sustained by higher density seating.

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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    24 Aug, 2016 08:18 am

    At the moment Air NZ is tight lipped about the new 'Refreshed' Business Premier. 

    Apparently, the new 'Refreshed' Business Premier will apply to the 773's and the remaining 5 789's that are being delivered from Oct 2017 onwards. 

    The current Business Premier product will remain on the 772's and the current seven 789's. Air NZ took delivery of its 7th 789 this month.

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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    24 Aug, 2016 08:35 am

    NZ Business Premier needs a thorough refresh.  Standard Herringbone is no longer a class-leading product.  VA has shown what a class leading J class looks like on a 77W.

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