The 787-9 dream machine

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July 09, 2014

Air New Zealand has unveiled the latest chapter in its extraordinary journey of innovation and inspiration that has propelled it to win AirlineRatings.com 2014 Airline of the Year.

On Wednesday July 8th (US time) at Everett Washington the airline and Boeing showed off the interior of the first Boeing 787-9 for which the airline is the launch customer. Once again Air New Zealand has shown that its quest for innovation shows no sign of flagging with an interior that is filled with clever ideas to make the travel experience better not just for the passengers at the pointy end but right through the cabin.

The 787 comes with a catalogue of standard seating options that Boeing will permit airlines to install on their aircraft. Air New Zealand rejected all the standard seats and insisted on specially designed units. For instance Kerry Reeves, the airline’s Program Director for Aircraft Programs, explains that the economy seat has been set at a one-inch recline, so that passengers will not feel the need to immediately recline their seat fully (see video below). Passengers have the option to recline fully for sleep of course but Mr Reeves says studies have showed that a small recline will satisfy the majority of passengers, aside from night time.

Air New Zealand also added more sculptured padding to the seats and modified the head rest to increase the travel up and downwards.

Another “neat” feature is the airline has done away with the hand held control which is often difficult to get to when fitted into the arm rest and can be accidently activated. Now passengers have all their controls on the seat back video screen: light, flight attendant call button, sound level and brightness are all there. Also you can text the Flight Attendant for food or drinks and get an answer.

The IFE system has been designed in New Zealand in partnership with Panasonic and has an app based touch screen system which is intuitive, easy to navigate and features a new customer interface. The new system will be also available progressively on the 777-200ER fleet as these aircraft are refurbished and will also be available across the 777-300ER fleet by the end of the year. It features more than 2,000 hours of content from more than 2,000 movie, television and audio titles including High Definition new releases, new and classic Disney and Hollywood titles and a dedicated category for HBO content.

Air New Zealand CFO Rob McDonald told AirlineRatings.com that the airline is “very proud to be the launch customer for the 787-9. We believe it will be a game-changer for Air New Zealand, with increased levels of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. We look forward to inviting our customers on board to experience the aircraft and all of its benefits for themselves.”

Air New Zealand’s Rolls-Royce powered 787-9 is part of the airline’s fleet modernization effort. This 787-9, painted in a unique black livery, is the first of 10 Dreamliners to join Air New Zealand’s fleet and the airline has options on eight more. First scheduled route is Auckland to Perth, Australia in October 2014 and to both Tokyo and Shanghai in November 2014.

Boeing Commercial Airplane’s Senior VP of Global Sales and Marketing John Wojick said “Air New Zealand was a perfect partner for us in developing the 787-9, given its innovative spirit, unique mission requirements and geography. The 787-9, combined with Air New Zealand’s exceptional onboard service, will set them apart from the competition by providing an unrivaled flying experience.”

The 787-9 complements and extends the 787 family. With the fuselage stretched by 20 feet (6 meters) over the 787-8, the 787-9 will fly up to 40 more passengers an additional 450 nautical miles (830 km) with the same environmental performance of 20 percent less fuel use and thus emission than the planes it will replace. Air New Zealand Chief Flight Operations and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan, told AirlineRatings.com that the 787-9 is “a dream to fly.”

When boarding the Air New Zealand 787-9 there is a great sense of space, a combination of the wide sculptured ceilings and very large windows. The cabin is very light and airy and has a warm inviting ambiance.

The cabin has 18 Business Premier lie flat beds, 21 Premium Economy seats and 263 Economy seats. In economy 16 rows of three can be converted into the SkyCouch.

Read: How the 787 beats jetlag here.

Read: Air NZ accepts first 787

AirlineRatings.com Editor Geoffrey Thomas and Editorial Director Christine Thomas were guests of Boeing and Air New Zealand.