Air New Zealand has confirmed long-standing expectations that it will replace its Boeing 747-400s with 777-300ERs by placing orders for up to seven of the twinjets.

The Star Alliance carrier's chief executive Rob Fyfe says four firm-ordered General Electric GE90-powered 777-300ERs will be delivered "in parallel with" already ordered Boeing 787-9s, between late 2010 and 2011. The purchase agreement with Boeing also includes three 777-300ER options.

ANZ had long been expected to order 777-300ERs to replace its 747-400s and in 2004 secured purchase rights for the stretched, longer-range 777 type when it ordered 777-200ERs. It says today that the four 777-300ERs are being ordered "based on prices agreed in 2004, [which] represents a substantial discount to today's list price of $1.1 billion".

Fyfe says that once the 777-300ERs are in service and have replaced the carrier's 747-400s, it will leave ANZ with a fleet entirely made up of twin-engined aircraft, around 2012.

"Our eight 747-400s have been the mainstay of our long-haul fleet for almost 18 years and have proven to be a real workhorse for the airline," says Fyfe.

"However, the Boeing 787-9 and 777 aircraft are much better suited to Air New Zealand's long-term growth strategy of serving new markets point-to-point, and offer significant environmental benefits through higher fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions."

He adds that the 787s and 777-300ERs "will provide Air New Zealand with a solid platform to realise its growth ambitions over the next decade, given their ability to fly direct to regions like India, South America, Asia and deep into China and North America".

Fyfe says he expects the carrier's 777-300ERs will be fitted with between 40 and 50 more seats than its eight 313-seat 777-200ERs.

ANZ has eight 787-9s on firm order. It still has 23 purchase rights for 777 aircraft as well as eight 787 options and eight 787 purchase rights.

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Source: Flight International