Air New Zealand will likely use its existing Boeing 787-9s to launch a future Auckland-New York route, having bypassed the Airbus A350 and 777X and selected the 787-10 to replace its 777-200ER fleet.
In announcing the fleet selection, chief executive Christopher Luxon reaffirmed that “one of our big ambitions in life is to land a flight from Auckland to New York.”
He adds that the carrier is in discussions with its USA network partner United Airlines on the potential nonstop service, which could be launched around 2022-23, although he would not confirm that was the timeline.
But Luxon says its existing 13 787-9s will likely be the vehicle to take it there, compared to the longer-range variants of the A350 and the 777X that were also considered to replace its eight 777-200ERs.
“The 787-9 could get there today, depending on how we configure it, so that’s a great starting point, and we’ll look at all the other options after that,” he says.
The carrier has already opted to take its last four 787-9s in a premium-heavy configuration with additional business and premium economy seats compared to its first 10 aircraft. Those aircraft have largely been deployed on services to Honolulu and Buenos Aires.
Air NZ announced on 27 May that it will order eight 787-10s and take options on a further 12 787s. Luxon says that it retains full flexibility across the proposed order to change them to the smaller -8s and -9s.
One major change, however, is that the General Electric GEnx-1B engine will power its future 787s, compared to the 13 Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered 787-9s already in its fleet. One more R-R-powered 787 will be delivered later this year.
Luxon appeared to link part of that change to the efficiency of the GEnx. “At this point, all our 787-9s and -10s going forward being powered by GEnx engines, which I think is for us, and looking at the fuel efficiency, is going to be perfect for the mix we’ve got coming forward.”
He adds, however, that the carrier is still pleased with its Trent-powered aircraft, and it plans to operate both engine types side-by-side for the foreseeable future.