This weekend sees Air New Zealand (ANZ) rolls out new premium products for its prestigious London Heathrow to Auckland service which operates via Los Angeles. First class is dropped in favour of a new three class layout with vastly improved seating in business class and the introduction of a premium economy cabin.
"We've leapfrogged our rivals in terms of the product," Rob Fyfe, ANZ's CEO told Business Traveller, "it will be at least two years before our competitors catch up."
New Zealand's national airline is going the whole hog and installing 46 fully lie-flat seats in business class. These are identical to Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class suites and adopt the four across "herringbone" layout where seats take an east-west (rather than north-south) configuration. Legroom is 79 inches and the seat is 33 inches wide at shoulder level. Pricing is similar to the old business class.
Says Rob Fyfe, "To cut development time we've licensed the seat from Virgin Atlantic.
We opted for this design because we've heard a lot of negative feedback from the angled lie-flat seats used by most other airlines. Passengers have told us they feel as if they are sliding forward on these seats. Larger and taller passengers have remarked on their lack of shoulder space."
"Our new business class seats don't have these drawbacks. But they are expensive. They cost three times more than the angled seats fitted by SIA. So we need to carry a couple more passengers per flight to recoup the extra cost. But the experience from Virgin indicates that passengers are prepared to choose a flight with this seat because its design offers more privacy and comfort, especially for taller passengers."
The 23-seat premium economy cabin features more spacious seating in a five across 3-2 layout on the B747's upper deck. ANZ says that initial demand (these seats are already installed on the Auckland-San Francisco route) shows that passengers are prepared to pay for extra width plus 38-40 inches of legroom as against 34 inches. Says Rob Fyfe, "It's a compelling proposition. I can get all this extra space for a 25% premium over the normal economy class price."
The new seats will begin appearing on daily flights NZ1 and NZ2 from Heathrow on November 6. All these flights will have the new seating by December 16.
Report by Alex McWhirter