June 18, 2013
Air New Zealand has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320 fitted with wing tip devices known as Sharklets, as it moves forward with its plan to renew its domestic narrowbody fleet.
The carrier has nine more Sharklet-equipped A320s on order, which are scheduled to be delivered through September 2015. They will replace Air New Zealand’s Boeing 737-300 fleet which is currently used on domestic routes.
This replacement process has actually already begun, as the airline has introduced four leased A320s into its domestic fleet, although these ones do not have Sharklets. The 737s are being put on the market, and the carrier’s Chief Pilot David Morgan says they should have good value since they are among the last -300s to come off the production line and are therefore younger than most other -300s.
Air New Zealand also already operates a fleet of 13 A320s configured for short-haul international flights, primarily on routes to Australia. Chief Pilot David Morgan says the airline would be interested in retrofitting these aircraft with Sharklets if Airbus decides to offer such an option. The international A320s are still relatively young, so are not near replacement. The oldest of them is 10 years old.
The airline was the first customer to order the Sharklet-equipped A320s. However, other airlines have received the aircraft first. Airbus executives say 72 A320s have been delivered with Sharklets, to 23 airlines.
As well as increasing fuel efficiency, the Sharklets provide many benefits, says Morgan. They provide more lift, which can often increase payload. And because aircraft climb quicker, they help reduce airport noise.
The narrowbody moves are part of Air New Zealand’s broader fleet simplification and rationalization plan. This will also see it move to two long-haul aircraft types – Boeing 777s and 787s.
Morgan says the airline has issued a request for information (RFI) from manufacturers regarding their widebody programs. He says this is to “get a sense of what’s out there in the market,” and is not aimed at a near-term order.
The carrier’s CEO Christopher Luxon has previously said that the next fleet that will need replacement will be the Boeing 777-200ERs, although Air New Zealand has many years to consider its options.