July 01, 2013
Credit: Air New Zealand Concept
Air New Zealand's overhaul of its domestic and international fleets is set to accelerate in 2014, as the arrival of advanced widebody and narrowbody jets hastens the retirement of fleet types that have been the airline's workhorses for the past few decades.
Next year is shaping up to be one of the busiest for aircraft deliveries in the airline's history, with Boeing 787-9s and 777-300ERs and Airbus A320s entering the fleet. The most-watched of these will be the introduction of the 787-9, as the carrier is the launch customer for the stretched version of the 787. The routes chosen by Air New Zealand will be the first flown by any airline with the -9.
The carrier is now expecting the first 787 to arrive in July 2014. A further two are due around September, for a total of three by the end of next year, says CEO Christopher Luxon. The carrier has 10 of the aircraft on order, and it appears that the 787-9 delivery schedule has not been affected by the high-profile battery problem that grounded all 787-8s in service earlier this year, and put a temporary hold on new deliveries.
The airline's plan of where it will deploy its 787s is gradually becoming clearer. Air New Zealand has revealed that its initial 787-9 deliveries will be used on existing long-haul flights from Auckland to Shanghai and Tokyo, and mid-range flights to Perth, Australia; Honolulu, and Papeete, which is the capital of Tahiti. The first aircraft will be flown on Auckland-Perth services initially, the carrier tells Aviation Week. Shanghai and Tokyo will be the next routes for the 787s, and both will feature this type by the end of 2014. The -9 may also be used on some other Australian services at times.
Air New Zealand will likely open the first all-new 787 routes in 2015.
The 787 routes revealed so far are mainly operated by Boeing 767-300ERs at present. The first priority for the 787s will be replacing the existing fleet of five 767-300ERs, which will be phased out as the newer aircraft arrive.
The company intends to focus its long-haul fleet on two basic types—the 787s and Boeing 777s. The carrier has taken delivery of five new 777-300ERs since December 2010, joining its fleet of eight 777-200ERs. In a subsequent deal, Air New Zealand has leased two more -300ERs that are due to arrive in July and October next year.
As well as enabling the phaseout of the 767s, the arrival of new widebodies next year will coincide with the retirement of the last of Air New Zealand's Boeing 747-400 fleet. It only has two left now, and they will be sold. A series of program delays for the 787 meant Air New Zealand—like other carriers—had to keep its older fleet types in service longer than it intended.