Air New Zealand says it has plenty of faith in the airline’s unique premium economy Spaceseat, despite the award-winning design being dropped from the Kiwi flag-carrier’s new Boeing 787 fleet and forthcoming Boeing 777-200ER refit.
Created by Air NZ and US design firm Ideo, and often praised as the world’s best premium economy product, the Spaceseat was developed with both the Boeing 777-300ER and 787-9 Dreamliner in mind.
However, the highly-touted seat was launched on the flagship Boeing 777-300ER in a knee-crushing layout which eventually saw Air New Zealand remove an entire row from the cabin in order to give other premium economy passengers an extra four to six inches of legroom.
“Air New Zealand remains committed to the Spaceseat on our 777-300 fleet” a spokeswoman for the airline told Australian Business Traveller.
This will include the two new Boeing 777-300ERs due for delivery next year, which Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon says “will be configured exactly as the current five we have, and that makes sense.”
“Our 777-300 is perfectly configured for North America, predominately” Luxon told Australian Business Traveller earlier this year on the sidelines of a Star Alliance press briefing.
“We’ve got a good and quite efficient economy, our premium economy product is very good, and Business Premier is outstanding.”
But while the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner fleet will boast the same Business Premier seat, Air New Zealand has opted for a premium economy seat from airline seat manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace.
While reportedly drawn from Boeing’s own ‘off the rack’ catalogue of pre-approved Dreamliner seats – which can be fitted as the aircraft is assembled rather than afterwards, making for a faster and less expensive rollout than the alternative of having the seats installed later on – the airline says it has worked with Zodiac "on a customised seat".
'Business-lite' rather than 'economy plus'
Luxon says the new premium economy seat, which has been sourced from US seat designer Zodiac, remains a cut above the rest of the industry – even if it’s not a Spaceseat.
“It’s a really good premium economy, I think others come at this from an ‘economy plus’ angle” he said, with the airline tagging the seat as a ‘Business-lite’ product with an ink-coloured luxury leather seat, 41” pitch, 5” wide armrest and a leg rest and extendable foot support.
Luxon says the same seat will likely also appear on next year’s upgrade of its long-range Boeing 777-200ER fleet, which is used on numerous trans-Tasman flights between Australia and Auckland as well as its long-distance services.
All eight aircraft will “being completely rebuilt with brand new seats all through the cabins".
“The thought is that with the 787-9s and the 777-200 refurb it will make sense for us to get an off-the-rack (premium economy) seat” Luxon explains.
“All of them will have premium economy, but probably the 777-200 and the 787-9 will have the same premium economy, which will be different from the 777-300”.
Like the factory-fresh 787-9 Dreamliners, the refurbished 777-200ER will lead with Business Premier and also several rows of the fold-down Skycouch seating in economy.
The 777-200ER refresh will also include an all-new inflight entertainment system using touchscreens.
Air New Zealand says the first of its eight 777-200s will go under the knife in the second quarter of 2014, “with all eight aircraft planned to be completed in the following 12 months.”
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