As part of Air New Zealand's in-flight product relaunch, its crack marketing team converged on London recently to promote the charms of its new services to assembled journalists, travel agents and frequent fliers.
And, after quaffing the rather good sparkling wine, who were we to contradict them? So glitzy was this event that even pop star Daniel Bedingfield dropped by to sing a couple of songs and sample the canap駸. Not distracted by the frivolities, we did a snoop to find out what the fuss was all about.
Apparently ANZ has launched a new cabin interior aimed at its leisure travellers who make up the majority of its market. Its traditional first-class/economy configuration has gone the way of many other long-haul carriers and been replaced by three classes: Pacific Economy, Pacific Premium Economy and Business Premier.
It seems ANZ is the latest carrier to launch a premium economy seat and in-flight products designed to attract leisure travellers who demand a little more than just economy class. The business sense behind that move is simple: while top-tier seats were heavily subscribed on routes such as the corporate market of London-Los Angeles-Auckland, this wasn't always the case on other routes, such as London-Auckland, Los Angeles-Auckland and Los Angeles-Christchurch. This is where Premium Economy class comes in. This class is aimed at the "Interactive Traveller" - that's marketing speak for high-spend international travellers that consume a wide range of tourism services - but who wouldn't be prepared to pay full business class prices.
And it looks like ANZ has taken a lot of trouble to ensure it is giving customers what they want. Business Premier seats feature the longest lie-flat bed available today claims the carrier. These were developed in conjunction with Virgin Atlantic incorporating user feedback. ANZ is the first carrier to license the use of Virgin's newly developed seat design. Others may follow, helping the UK carrier to offset the huge development cost of its innovative product.
All seats feature Air New Zealand's on-demand entertainment system which vice-president, the Americas, Gus Gilmore confidently described as 'future-proof'. That translates as having the provision for connectivity (enabling phones, internet and live television feeds) - which can be implemented as satellite technology develops.
The new look is being rolled out across Air New Zealand's eight Boeing 747s (the finishing touches are just being completed on the second one), but the scheduled September delivery date of the first of eight new 777s (with options for seven more) is being delayed by a strike at Boeing's production line in Seattle.