Five things you need to know about Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo

Five things you need to know about Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo

Air New Zealand's first Airbus A321neo jets will take wing in mid-November, darting between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as the Star Alliance member seeks to sharpen its edge on the competitive trans-Tasman market.

An upgraded version of AirNZ's workhorse Airbus A320 family, this is the first of 14 A321neo aircraft to join the fleet – seven of which will be dedicated to the busiest routes of the Kiwi-Aussie corridor, while six of the smaller A320neo jets (arriving from February 2019) are slated for routes such as Wellington-Sydney and Christchurch-Melbourne.

So what's in store for trans-Tasman travellers on air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo?

No business class

Air New Zealand opted to skip business class on its A321neo jets, fitting them out instead with 214 economy seats from tip to tail.

However, there are still some differences from row to row and even seat to seat...

Which seats have the most legroom?

Apart from the bulkhead-facing row 1 and the exit rows (17 and 27), the most generous legroom is afforded to 42 designated Space+ seats in the front: these are at rows 2-7 as well as the left-side of row 8 (seats 8A, 8B and 8C) and row 9 (seats 9A, 9B and 9C).

Even so, not all Space+ seats are equal: while most Space+ seats have a pitch of 83cm (32.7"), nine have their the pitched pruned to 81cm (31.9") –  this seatmap denotes the location of the less spacious Space+ seats with purple dots.

To break this down for when you go to select your seat: Space+ passengers on the left-side of AirNZ's A321neo (the A, B and C seats) from rows 2 through 8 enjoy a pitch of 83cm, but at row 9 this drops back to 81cm.

However, if you're in any of the right-side Space+ seats (D, E and F), 83cm is yours only from rows 2 through 5 – plonk yourself into rows 6 or 7 and you'll notice the reduced 81cm pitch.

Space + seats can be selected for free by Gold and Elite members of Air New Zealand's Airpoints frequent flyer scheme, as well as Koru members, while the A321neo's first few rows will also be available as 'Works Deluxe' class with the middle seat left vacant.

Also read: Air New Zealand offers free Gold status match to Qantas, Virgin Australia frequent flyers

Legroom in the A321neo's standard seats is even more of a lucky dip.

Rows 10 through 16 on the left side, and 8 through 16 on the right side, see the pitch trimmed to 76cm (30").

But the squeeze really sets in from row 18, where almost every row on the left side of the plane (seats A, B and C) is at a closely-spaced 73.6 cm (29") – with the notable exceptions of row 35 and 36 (marked below with purple dots), where you get a smidge extra knee-room courtesy of a seat separation of 76cm (30”).

This is reversed on the right side of the A321neo: the D, E and F seats at rows 18 through 37 offer 30 inches of pitch, although rows 36 and 37 are set 29 inches apart (marked below with purple dots).

If it helps any, Air New Zealand says the curved design of the A321neo's leather-clad slimline seats mean that passengers "sink further into the seat back creating up to 7 percent more usable space when compared with the equivalent pitch on the existing fleet."

A rethink of the original A320 design has also seen Airbus increase the size of the overhead luggage bins by around 25 percent.

A middle seat you might actually like

"I want the middle seat!" exclaimed nobody ever.

That could change on Air New Zealand's A321neo, as the middle seats in every row (the B and E seats) are 46cm wide, compared to 44cm for the window and aisle seats, to help avoid that battle for the armrests.

“The slightly wider middle seat helps balance out the fact that window and aisle seat customers enjoy a greater sense of space," explains Anita Hawthorne, Air New Zealand's General Manager for Customer Experience.

"We currently have many customers who state a preference for window or aisle seats and it’s possible the new design may see the middle seat get a boost in popularity."

Those seat widths are also up from the standard 43cm of Air New Zealand's current A320 fleet.

Power: AC no, USB yes

While none of Air New Zealand's Airbus A321neo seats are fitted with an AC socket, the 10" Panasonic inflight entertainment system fitted into the rear of each seat includes two USB sockets.

One is the familiar rectangular USB-A type, the other is the slim USB-C socket slowly appearing on an increasing number of laptops – including Apple's MacBook family, Dell's 2018 XPS 13 and HP's Elite xP 2-in-1 – and tablets such as Samsung's Galaxy TAB series.

A spokesman for Panasonic tells Australian Business Traveller that the USB-C ports will intelligently switch to serving up more power in USB-C PD (Power Delivery) mode if you connect a laptop or tablet, so that even those super-thirsty bits of kit can be recharged during the flight.

Inflight WiFi

As each A321neo rolls out of the factory it will come fitted with inflight Internet so that trans-Tasman flyers can stay connected above the clouds.

Pricing will be based on how long you spend online rather than how much data you download; at the time of writing, Air New Zealand's website lists options for a one-hour pass and a 'full flight' pass.

The former currently has no pricing, but based on NZ$9 for one hour on WiFi-enabled Boeing 777 flights to Asia, North America and Europe, one hopes that an hour of trans-Tasman WiFi on the A321neo will come in around NZ$5-6.

The trans-Tasman flight pass is currently shown as NZ$30 although some readers report this has dropped to a far more appealing NZ$20.

David Flynn
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.
 

35 comments

  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    28 Sep, 2018 06:38 am

    For quite a while now I've considered NZ a320 comfort and (minimal) service pretty much "budget" . This seat squeeze on the 321 only confirms my opinion. I'd add a sixth "need to know" to David's list - the PW 1100g engines. NZ Dreamliners have been the subject of all sorts of problems and disruptions with their Trent engines. The 321 PW's look like causing more of the same pain.
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  • elchriss0

    elchriss0

    28 Sep, 2018 07:56 am

    Just another aircraft to avoid with this inconsistency

    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Aleks Popovic

    SYDINI

    28 Sep, 2018 09:13 am

    Just what I was thinking too! How would you know which seat is which. SeatGuru is going to have a field day trying to figure this one out for their site!
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    28 Sep, 2018 08:09 am

    I have booked on the first revenue service of the A321neo being 12 November, being NZ707 AKL/SYD. It will be interesting to see the reaction of those passengers setting in the middle and aft of the aircraft.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    28 Sep, 2018 11:48 am

    Very interesting, Kris - we’re hoping to be either on this flight or the return SYD-AKL leg in order to share a full review of the seat, flight and WiFi... so who knows, we might even catch up with you in the lounge!
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    29 Sep, 2018 08:17 am

    Hi David - I am doing as a day trip returning SYD/AKL in the evening, so could catch up in either the AKL or SYD lounge.
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  • pearsonlive

    pearsonlive

    28 Sep, 2018 08:18 am

    It's a sad day when a so called full service airline considers 32“ as a luxury that they can charge extra for
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  • Chris McKellar

    krisdude

    29 Sep, 2018 08:23 am

    Air NZ is using CabinFlex interior and the seats being used are the next generation of slimline seats for their A320/A321neo's with wider seats, so it will be interesting what the seats will be like.
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  • Martinjc

    Martinjc

    28 Sep, 2018 08:53 am

    Talk about cramming more sardines into a tin can. This configuration sounds horrendous. A seat pitch of 28.7 inches down the back?. Is Air New Zealand now trying to be the RyanAir of the Southern Hemisphere?. Will be avoiding this plane at all costs.
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  • cavemanzk

    cavemanzk

    28 Sep, 2018 09:41 am

    Have already been for the last couple of years! the current 171 seat Domestic A320CEO already features 30-29" pitch down the back.

    Not much difference to an QF 738 since they added the the addational row.
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  • Bob Burgess

    Bob Burgess

    28 Sep, 2018 08:58 am

    Great tips on the seats with the best pitch, this config really is a bit mixed-up when it comes to legroom, glad to see AusBT is making some sense of it.

    USB-C PD, if it can handle my 15 inch MacBook Pro that is great but I doubt I will have room to open the notebook unless I am in a Seat+ row!
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  • Dale

    hakkinen5

    28 Sep, 2018 09:49 am

    Wow!!! 31.7 inches is "Space+"? You've got to be kidding!
    And 28 inches down the back? That's less than both Tiger and Jetstar I think. Isn't there a law against that?

    You've lost me Air New Zealand.

    I wouldn't actually fit in that seat. Disgraceful.
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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    28 Sep, 2018 10:36 am

    John Borghetti's prayers have just been answered!

    With the imminent breakup of the Virgin-NZ arrangement, Air New Zealand's configuration of this new A321 fleet has ensured that competing VA flights will be chokkers.

    No Business class, all 'Economy', seat pitch and space all over the shop. What was NZ's revenue gurus thinking .. or smoking?

    In a single answer: 'Thanks, but no thanks, NZ'

    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • James C

    Carrots

    28 Sep, 2018 11:11 am

    So they throw their toys out of the cot with VA... and now these seats? Wow. Thankfully Adelaide is a 787 (or rather 777 for now).

    *disclaimer who really knows what actually happened with VA, but it makes for a good comment he he!
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    28 Sep, 2018 01:12 pm

    Is it just me, or do those armrests in the photo look thinner and shorter than what they've got now?
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  • comcats2168

    comcats2168

    28 Sep, 2018 01:27 pm

    I'm fairly sure they're meant to be in inches, but they're just rounded down conversions, e.g. 29 in = 73.66 cm which rounds down to 73 cm. I've never seen an aircraft with seat pitches actually installed in cm.
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  • David Flynn

    David

    28 Sep, 2018 06:44 pm

    Actually the AirNZ a321neo seatmap lists pitch in cm, we converted to inches and rounded to one decimal place (eg 81cm became 31.9").
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  • ZT

    ZT

    28 Sep, 2018 02:53 pm

    At some stage there will be an aircraft accident on the ground and some passengers will be delayed exiting the aircraft due to tight seat pitch with a possible horrendous outcome.
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  • Kiwirailengr

    Kiwirailengr

    29 Sep, 2018 12:18 am

    That'll be me who finds 30" woefully inadequate.
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  • John Corbett

    John C

    28 Sep, 2018 03:29 pm

    I stopped reading at "No business class". The existing one-class AirNZ A320s are grim travelling experiences that I avoid at all cost. Kiwis have a masochistic streak and will submit to cramped and basic travelling conditions and the airline's increasingly tweezer-lipped approach to serving you a drink. And sitting there while the rubbish sack came down the aisle brought flashbacks of being in school.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    29 Sep, 2018 03:44 pm

    It's not so much that Kiwis have a masochistic streak but they are incredibly loyal to Air NZ, and the company plays on this loyalty and abuses it big time and too often. I was a loyal customer for many years but will never fly on one of these crates.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Martin  Slobodnik

    msport2012

    28 Sep, 2018 04:57 pm

    Yeah, unless it's a wide body 787 or 777 I wont fly them.

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  • Peter Riddell

    Pericon9

    28 Sep, 2018 05:44 pm

    After a recent trip to Christchurch on NZ, I needed physio and medication for my back due to the really bad seating. With this new config and after those problems I won't be touching NZ again unless I have no choice. Appalling.
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  • k lane

    KRL2018

    28 Sep, 2018 08:37 pm

    Really? Given all flights are narrow body to CHCH from AU - except emirates - no matter who you flew you'd likely need help
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  • Brian Williams

    evilbrian

    29 Sep, 2018 03:46 pm

    Which is why I now fly EK via Sydney to Chch, even when based in Melbourne.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • ZT

    ZT

    28 Sep, 2018 05:54 pm

    If you are packed in like sardines it is important to exercise your legs somehow or you may end up with a deep vein blood clot (DVT).
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  • Phillip Maguire

    Felipe

    28 Sep, 2018 09:08 pm

    The picture shown here of those seats look so hard and uncomfortable. The public suburban bus that I take every day has seats that look much more comfortable. If this is how NZ welcomes their customers for trips across the Tasman, well quite frankly I am not impressed at all.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • AB__CD

    AB__CD

    29 Sep, 2018 12:11 am

    Increasingly I'm finding that the only difference between budget and full service comes down to those winged headrests.
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Dan Ho

    djtech

    29 Sep, 2018 12:40 pm

    Gives me even more of a reason to fly with Air NZ's 777 or 787 flights to Auckland. Shame to have to suffer in these airbuses to chrischurch.
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    29 Sep, 2018 12:43 pm

    Air NZ’s new slogan should be “LCC at full-service prices.” They are an example of what happens when you don’t have meaningful local competition. QF and VA are both good because they know they have a competitor up against them all the time and are always looking to improve as both an airline and a business
    Member who gave thanks

    JKH

  • Mitchell Dennis

    Mitchd31

    30 Sep, 2018 12:20 pm

    Very inconsistent ,and although I love the 321,I feel the trans tasman war will really fire up following VA all inclusive relaunch at the end of October.
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  • Tom Wilson

    tommygun

    1 Oct, 2018 05:49 am

    Do I count just three toilets for 214 pax + crew? Another insult from Air NZ.
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  • cavemanzk

    cavemanzk

    1 Oct, 2018 03:26 pm

    Thats nothing there A320D (sharlet A320CEO's) have two toilets for 171 passengers + crew!
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  • reeves35

    reeves35

    1 Oct, 2018 04:18 pm

    Are they the new tiny toilets Airbus and Boeing have come up with to squeeze in more seats? Apparently these toilets are ridiculously small that you virtually have to back into.
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  • Jason Hamilton

    JKH

    1 Oct, 2018 06:37 pm

    You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. It’s just another crap narrow body standard class aircraft, an A320 sardine can for even more sardines.
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23 Oct, 2018 09:14 pm

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