This morning I was able to take part in a Boeing media event involving a much heralded aircraft: Air New Zealand’s first 787-9. We’ve discussed what the cabin will look like before on the site, but it’s a lot different to see- and feel- it in person.
The tour commenced by taking a look around the airframe outside, but with the caveat that we had to stay within the gate lines of the delivery stall. This meant that I had to get creative with my angles. We could, however, also make use of the balcony of the Everett Delivery Center, which provided some great views.
The outside of this plane is amazing, but I was mostly there to check out what was on in the inside. After getting external shots, it was time to head onboard Air New Zealand’s brand new aircraft. A special moment for me as I’ve never even set foot inside a 787 Dreamliner of any flavor before.
The first impression of boarding via L1 on Air New Zealand’s first 787 is that it’s so well lit and spacious. I know that’s a trait true for all 787s but it is a very open feeling cabin. The next striking fact is that Business Premier is in a 1-1-1 layout.
Not only does every seat have direct aisle access, but there’s no seat mate. Since Business Premier offers two person dining, one doesn’t need to sit next to someone they are flying with.
The 18 Business Premier seats boast 22 inches of width, 33 inches of shoulder room, and can be converted into a 79 inch bed. The seat itself is certainly reminiscent of Air New Zealand’s current business class offerings, but tweaked to be even more comfortable.
As far as herringbone seats go, it’s definitely the softest I have sat in so far — same goes for the bed.
The IFE features an eleven inch screen across all cabins, but the real excitement comes from the fact that it is a custom system based off of the Panasonic eX2 product. For example, if the IFE goes down- there is local storage of the new-release movies so each seat so that there is always something to watch. When it is working, there is 2000 hours of content to choose from.
The real innovations are mostly in the user interface and the fact Air New Zealand has partnered with TripAdvisor to add thousands of pieces of information about the destination the passenger is being carried towards.
This system will be rolled out across the Air New Zealand long haul fleet, with the 777-300ERs being finished by the end of this year and the 777-200ERs as they go in for maintenance.
The IFE is also very fast, responsive, and well designed in terms of usability. The new system also features HBO content, so if you want to see a different dragon than Smaug on your way to Middle Earth- now’s your chance!
Premium Economy is another impressive offering aboard the 787-9 — it offers a full 41″ inches of seat-pitch. That number is not only important because it’s a competitive seat pitch, but it also allows Air New Zealand to offer a full leg rest as well as a foot rest in every row. There are twenty one seats in this cabin, making it feel very spacious and open.
To put things into perspective, 41″ is more pitch than most domestic first/business products. It feels just like one, too. On a 12 hour flight, that’s going to be hard to beat. Especially when you remember most domestic first/business products have a pitch of 38″, no foot-rest and let alone leg rest. I know, different market segment- but it clearly shows that Air New Zealand is ahead of the pack in Premium Economy innovations.
Economy, of course, features Air New Zealand’s very own Skycouch (aka Cuddle Class). There are fourteen rows of the Zodiac made Skycouch.
They are padded quite well and have a focus on creating a feeling of space, which is pretty easy to attain when they offer 5″ of recline.
It’s a truly lovely aircraft and I look forward to flying either it or its siblings one day. Unfortunately for us Americans that will be a bit difficult for a while. When the aircraft enters commercial service on October 15 of this year, it will be flying the Auckland-Perth route.
From there the 787-9 routes will expand to Auckland-Tokyo, Auckland-Shanghai, and Christchurch-Tokyo.
Air New Zealand’s seems to always strive to have a class-leading product on their aircraft, as they have shown with each successive generation they’ve added. The 787-9 is not a drastic improvement over the 777-300ER that proceeded it- but rather a refined, superior, evolution.
OTHER BOEING 787-9 DREAMLINER GOODIES
- EPIC: Aerial Photo of Air New Zealand’s First Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
- Photos: Air New Zealand’s First Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Rolled Out
- Epic AvGeek Photo: First Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Flying Over Mt. Rainier
- Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to Conduct Flight Tests to Auckland