Air New Zealand to use 787-9s on mixed routes

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Air New Zealand will deploy its Boeing 787-9s on services to Shanghai, Tokyo, Perth, Honolulu and Papeete when the type enters service from July 2014.

Chief executive of the Star Alliance carrier Christopher Luxon says that the aircraft is a "game changer" for the airline.

"This modern flexible fuel efficient aircraft will not only replace our current fleet of Boeing 767s, it also represents a significant growth opportunity for our business and opens up the prospect of expanding our Pacific Rim footprint," he says.

Air New Zealand is the launch customer for the 787-9, and will take delivery of the 10 aircraft it has on order between 2014 and 2017. That will allow it to retire its five 767-300ERs and allow for further growth.

The airline has also confirmed that its 787s will be configured in a three-class arrangement, with business, premium economy and economy classes.

"Given [that] our 787-9's will be multiple purpose aircraft - operating both long and mid haul sectors - we've put a lot of research effort into coming up with four distinct seating selections that meet the customer expectations across the markets it will serve," says Luxon.

A spokeswoman for the carrier, however, adds that seat counts for each cabin are still being finalised and will be announced at a later date. Boeing says that 787-9s can be configured to carry 250-290 seats depending on the layout.

In business class, Air New Zealand's 787s will have the same business premier seat as the Boeing 777-300ERs, but the carrier has sourced a new seat for its premium economy cabin from US designer Zodiac, which will feature a 41in (104cm) pitch.

Air New Zealand has also chosen to fit its innovative Skycouch seat - which allows three seats to be converted to a sofa-like surface - to the first 16 rows of the economy cabin. Its other standard economy seats will be sourced from Zodiac with some customisations, and will be in a 3-4-3 arrangement.

The first 787-9 is in final assembly in Seattle, and is due to make its first flight before the end of the year.