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Air New Zealand’s radical reboot of its international business class will take wing in September 2024 on flights from Auckland to New York and Chicago.
That’s when the Kiwi carrier collects the keys to the first of eight factory-fresh Boeing 787s with new suites and seats from tip to tail.
Taking pride of place on the ultra-long range flights will be eight private Business Premier Luxe suites – four in the first row of each business class cabin – with a ‘buddy seat’ where a companion can sit and share a meal, a glass of wine or a game of cards, and dressed by upmarket touches including a Merino wool throw.
These will be accompanied by 42 new-look Business Premier seats with their own sliding privacy panels, a storage cabinet and vanity mirror, a spacious side shelf, wireless device charging and a massive 24” video screen with Bluetooth audio streaming to your own cordless headphones or earbuds.
Unlike the current 20-year old ‘sleeper shells’, with narrow confines and a steep rake that sees many passengers facing one another like commuters on a bus, the new Business Premier seats adopt a more conventional layout.
Seats on either side of the plane are angled slightly inwards, but still close enough to the window to enjoy the view; the paired middle seats face slightly outwards, towards the aisle, although a panel lets you share the experience with your partner in the adjacent middle seat.
The updated Business Premier beds are slightly longer, and in sleep mode will be dressed with a memory foam mattress and feather pillow; the seat itself can also be put into a reclined position for the taxi, take-off and landing stages of the journey.
And there’ll be more business class seats on these new Dreamliners, which will be dedicated to and “optimised for ultra-long haul flying,” says Air New Zealand Captain and 787 Technical Pilot Phillip Kirk.
The elongated two-cabin business class zone will be followed by 52 new-design premium economy seats, significantly more than the 33-seat count on the airline’s most recent Dreamliners.
It’s all about reducing the number of seats – and skewing the mix towards higher-revenue premium passengers – to extend the aircraft’s reach, “because New York is definitely on the edge of the (current) aeroplane’s range,” Kirk told Executive Traveller during the airline’s inaugural nonstop flight from Auckland to New York.
Nestled behind the premium economy cabin and will be the innovative Skynest sleeping bunks, which delivers full-length lie-flat beds to economy passengers – albeit in four-hour shifts at an extra cost estimated to be “around NZ$400 to $600”, says Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty.
“North America is the perfect market for Skynest, as it has a premium segment that values comfort and sleep during long-haul travel.”
Each of the six Skynest pods will include a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket (which will be changed between each Skynest booking shift) ear plugs, soft LED lighting light, USB power and a ventilation outlet.
In addition to the eight new Dreamliners, Air New Zealand will begin retrofitting its existing 14-strong 787 fleet with the new seats from late 2024.