27 May 2019

Air NZ hopes new planes will pave the way for Akl-NY flights

From Checkpoint, 5:08 pm on 27 May 2019

Passengers could be able to travel nonstop from Auckland to New York when Air New Zealand takes delivery of its new Boeing Dreamliner jets.

The national carrier announced today it was buying eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner jets worth $US2.7 billion ($4 billion) to replace its early 777 models, with completely refurbished cabins.

The 330-seat Dreamliners are up to 25 percent more fuel efficient than their predecessors, meaning direct flights to the United States' east coast could soon be on the cards.

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon hoped they would pave the way for direct flights between Auckland and New York.

"We're really, really committed and determined to see if we can get to New York. The timing will ... need to be worked through with our partner United [Airlines] in that regard. As to what fleet and configuration, that's now the big decision."

Boeing has been beset by safety issues recently, with two of its 737 MAX jets involved in fatal crashes in less than six months.

But Mr Luxon said the decision to stick with the aircraft manufacturer, rather than going with competitor Airbus, was logical. 

"We're very fortunate that both with the aircraft manufacturers, be they Boeing and Airbus, certainly with the engine manufacturers, be they Rolls Royce or GE, we've actually got great options in both cases.

"We've got to look at where we're going to fly the aircraft today, where they'll be going into the future. The combination of the 787-10 with the GEnx engine was just perfect."

Part of Air New Zealand's long haul fleet has had to be grounded for expensive repairs because of problems with Rolls Royce engines.

For this latest batch of aircraft, Rolls Royce missed out on the lucrative deal, with Air New Zealand instead opting to buy engines from American company, General Electric Aviation.

Mr Luxon said GE was just a better fit for the new Boeing Dreamliners.

"It was a very competitive process and it was a very compelling offer we got from GE as a result ... they were very keen to win this job."

Boeing's vice president of commercial sales and marketing for Asia Pacific Christy Reese said the 787-10 aircraft set new benchmarks for fuel efficiency.

"This aeroplane is the most efficient wide-body aeroplane in service today and will pay immediate dividends to Air New Zealand."

Aviation expert Professor Graham Hunt said the decision to replace Rolls Royce engines with GE could be seen as a snub - but it was a smart move.

"I think it's certainly very costly for Rolls Royce, I think it's very unfortunate that it happened to them. But in terms of Air New Zealand, I think it's a very, very smart move."

Air New Zealand wouldn't reveal how much of a discount it got off the $US2.7b price tag for the eight planes, but Prof Hunt said Boeing's recent spate of bad press would have enabled the airline to beat the price down.

"I imagine the price that Air New Zealand would have been able to negotiate would have been excellent. It's been a very good customer for a very long time and given the difficulties that Boeing has had over these past few weeks, I think a top-class airline like Air New Zealand will be very, very positive for Boeing."

Passengers wanting to travel directly to New York shouldn't pack their bags just yet - the first of the new Dreamliner planes won't be delivered until 2022.