Air New Zealand 777-300ER. Photo: Flickr user kpaekilo1
If all goes according to plan, Air New Zealand will receive this Christmas a gift about as big as they come: a Boeing 777-300ER. Not only is it the first of an order for five, it is also the first aircraft to have the carrier's new long-haul interior, including the much-touted economy lie-flat product called the SkyCouch.
The aircraft is due to touch down in Auckland on the morning of Christmas Eve, with Boeing handing the bird over sometime--the schedule is still being finalised--around 21 December. (Some are clamoring for the delivery day to be called "World Spooning Day". See here for the joke.)
It's a welcome gift, but Air New Zealand was originally expecting the first delivery last month, which slipped to late November/early December. But such goes aircraft deliveries these days.
Air New Zealand has not stated the cause of the delay, saying only it is due to the aircraft being new. In September Air New Zealand said it had to make changes to its SkyCouch product, including tightening the PTV and arm rests so they did not move as freely (a hazard in a crash), but it's not clear how related those modifications are to the delay.
Nonetheless Air New Zealand has shown prudence and has scheduled the official start of its 777-300ER operations for 1 April 2011 when 777-300ERs will commence services on the Auckland-Los Angeles-London route. Between delivery and 1 April the aircraft will operate ad-hoc services across the Tasman to Australia as well as to LA.
"If customers end up on a B777-300ER then they will be surprised and delighted about getting to experience the new product," the carrier has said. For reference, the new SkyCouch may not be the only thing passengers will be surprised about.