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AIR NEW ZEALAND: Suspends Chicago route and shuffles new Business Class cabin from new to retrofitted Dreamliners

AIR NEW ZEALAND: Suspends Chicago route and shuffles new Business Class cabin from new to retrofitted Dreamliners

Air New Zealand is having problems getting hold of sufficient maintenance slots/replacement Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines for its 787 aircraft. Consequently, AirNZ is ‘pausing’ its Auckland to Chicago service for 7 months between 31 March to 25 October 2024.

“Unfortunately, Air New Zealand continues to be impacted by challenges with availability of Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, meaning we will now have up to three aircraft unavailable for an extended period, so we’ve had to review our schedule.

Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty
a bed with a purple blanket and a tv on the back of a plane
Air New Zealand B787 Dreamliner ‘sleeper shell’ business class in herringbone configuration [AirNZ]

New Business Class on AirNZ 787 Dreamliners

Looks like the airline is taking advantage of this aircraft downtime and is retrofitting the three aircraft with its newly chosen Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe suites. These will be replacing its 20-year old and now thoroughly outdated ‘sleeper shell’ herringbone arranged business class product.

The new Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe suites were to debut on its newly arriving Dreamliners, originally scheduled for September 2024. Delivery of the first two of these aircraft has now been delayed until the 2026 financial year.

New Dreamliners on newest routes

The new aircraft were destined for long routes like Auckland to New York and Chicago. A good idea to lead this brand spanking new Business Class product on its new direct routes.

That sure would have made Air New Zealand’s services to North America, much more competitive . It would also have meant Air New Zealand would have stolen a march on the Qantas Project Sunrise flights to New York with their A350 1000s brand new cabins.

AirNZ is expecting to schedule the refurbished 787s on any route that their 787s currently fly. The retrofitted planes could even appear on the Auckland to Perth route.

a seat and a monitor in a plane
Air New Zealand Business Premier suite with angled-aisle seats, and substantial privacy screens, but not quite doors [Air NZ]

Business Premier Luxe

The first row of Business Premier will become Business Premier Luxe, a kind of poor man’s First Class. It will have more space than the other Business Class seats. All Business Premier seats will come with storage cabinet, vanity mirror, a large side shelf, wireless charging and a 24” screen with Bluetooth audio streaming to your cordless headphones or earbuds.

The Business Premier Luxe suites will also have the ability for two passengers to dine together.

a man and woman sitting at a table in an airplane
First row will have Business Premier Luxe seats with more space and ‘dining for two’ [Air NZ]

You won’t get much more than that. Air New Zealand is not intending to provide additional amenities – other than a wool throw, or other onboard service for the ‘Luxe’ row.

On the retrofitted Boeing 787 Dreamliners there will be 22 Business Premier seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, including the ‘Luxe’ seats. They will have a Premium Economy cabin but they won’t have other proposed innovations like the Skynest sleeping bunks.

The delayed Dreamliners, which have been specifically tailored for the ultra long routes like Auckland to New York will have two business class cabins with a total of 48 seats. Each of those cabins will have a row of the ‘Luxe’ seats giving a total of 8 on the aircraft. They will also debut the Skynest concept where economy passengers can rent the sleeping pods for up to 4 hours, at an extra cost.

Caught in the cancelled Chicago flights?

Air New Zealand will accommodate you if you were booked on one of the cancelled Auckland to Chicago services. Either they can re-route you on an exsiting Air NZ product, or issue a credit or full refund.

Air New Zealand Skynest
Air New Zealand Skynest bed concept [Air New Zealand]

2PAXfly Takeout

This is a blow for Air New Zealand. Suspension of the Chicago route is not ideal, and the delay in the arrival of new aircraft will have an impact on the bottom line. Debuting the new cabins on brand new aircraft would have been a public relations coup. Retrofitting, doesn’t have quite the impact. However, regular Air New Zealand on 787 routes will be delighted seated in the new Business Premier or Business Premier Luxe seats. That old herringbone configured business class is way out of date!

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