Product innovation is excellent to see in an industry so blighted by stories of product and service downgrades. It’s probably particulary essential for small carriers like Air New Zealand, since all their long haul routes operate in competition with other carriers – and announcements like this maintain their share-of-voice.
The Premium Economy seat will be the one to watch, I think, especially with its offset 2-2-2 configuration and super cabin ambience. Business class catering for PE passengers is also a serious differentiator and helps justify the not-inconsiderable incremental cost of PE over Y.
Of course, the principal driver behind the inclusion of J catering in PE was the mixed-class upper deck on the 744s that these new 777s are slated to replace. With that practical, operational necessity removed, Air New Zealand will hopefully maintain their conviction that it’s a worthy component of the soft product. The omens are good; the slightly less-fanfared announcements about general catering improvements (especially in terms of galley equipment) are very welcome indeed, though they will depend hugely on getting the Auckland crews (who are every bit as fractious as Finnair’s and BA’s!) behind the new service standards.
Only time will tell whether the CX Y-style seat adjustment in PE will prove as comfortable as the more traditional fixed squab and tilting backrest arrangement.
The Skycouch is, naturally of course, today’s headline-grabber, though I think the practical implications of the seat, in use, are hugely compromised. As excessbaggage says, a quick bit of maths (the average 777 Y seat width is actually 17.5ins) produces a combined seat width which cannot, including armrests and frames, be even 5 feet long. You’ll note from the press photos that the models actually have their heads up the sidewall of the aircraft. You’ll also note that the seats fore of the recumbent models are upright, whilst those they occupy are reclined. As Air New Zealand are not adopting shell-style seats in Y, encroachment into the Skycouch space will take place.
The suggestion of a 1100USD per flight fee between the two passengers occupying the Skycouch is not inconsiderable in the acutely price-sensitive Y-cabin, and there are bound to be issues when passengers who’ve paid the fee board a lightly-loaded service and believe (rightly-or-wrongly) that they could have avoided the fee if they’d known that seats would have been unoccupied anyway. Remember, specifically, that these seats can only be of interest to leisure travellers, not business ones (unless they’re very close!) and leisure travellers are more likely to buy on price than schedule, loyalty, or regular experience.
If the seats do indeed prove successful commercially, and they generate licensing revenue for Air New Zealand, then it will be excellent news for the company and indeed the country, as it will help secure their long term self-determination in terms of aviation.
Also excellent are those new uniforms; a huge improvement on the old!
Speaking honestly though, and putting my neck on the line, I think the seats will end up being given away free to status-holders travelling in pairs, if not consigned to the same place as airline ash trays fairly shortly.
Overall though, it’s great to see airline good news that’s not just about First Class.