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Air NZ to offer luxury seats

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Old July 30th, 2004, 05:44 AM
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Default Air NZ to offer luxury seats

Air NZ to offer luxury seats

Air New Zealand is expected to unveil its new flat-bed business class
seat today, as part of a $160 million refurbishment of its Boeing
747-400 fleet.

Details of the seats, which cost as much as a 3-series BMW each, are a
tightly-held secret.

However, group general manager of airlines Rob Fyfe has said the seats
would be unlike anything rival airlines were using on services to New

Air New Zealand is also likely to drop first class, which carries few
full-fare paying passengers. The airline's only competitor on the
Auckland-to-Los Angeles route, Qantas, has already removed first class
on the service.

Air New Zealand's premium cabins have fallen behind the competition in
recent years. The current seats were designed in the 1990s and Air New
Zealand is considered by some in the industry to have missed a

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific introduced flat-bed seats in
2002, and together with new competitor, Dubai-based Emirate Airlines
are regarded as offering the highest quality business class in the

Mr Fyfe said the new seats would feature a roomier cocoon than
competitors. Other improvements would include a new in-flight
entertainment system with bigger video screens and more options.

The fleet of eight 747s fly mainly to the west coast of the United
States and Japan. It would take about a month to refit each plane at a
cost of $20 million per aircraft, starting later this year.

Travel Agents Association president James Langton said Air New
Zealand's business travellers were looking for seats that matched
those being offered by other top airlines.

Special business class fares offered by rivals such as Emirates
Airlines were giving previously loyal Air New Zealand customers a
taste of the superior seats now available.

"They are fast becoming more aware of the comfort of these sleeper
beds," Mr Langton said.

Air New Zealand air points members were loyal on the Auckland-to-Los
Angeles service because Qantas did not yet offer a flat-bed seat on
the route. "If Qantas did have it, they would say we are going to go
Qantas this time."

However, Air New Zealand was losing customers to Singapore Airlines
and Cathay Pacific for flights through Singapore and Hong Kong to
Europe as a result of its older business class, Mr Langton said.

The unveiling marks the latest step in repositioning the 80.5 per cent
state-owned airline to foot it with competitors on long-haul routes.

Air New Zealand said earlier this month that it would buy a fleet of
eight 300-seat Boeing 777-200ERs and two 7E7-8s in a deal worth $1.3
billion to replace its aging 767-300ER fleet from September next year.

It also launched a new service between Christchurch and Los Angeles
and on Wednesday will start its new service between Auckland and San
Francisco. The 747 upgrade will see the fleet, with an average age of
10 years, through to the early part of the next decade, at which time
they are likely to be replaced with long-range Boeing 777-300ERs.

While the well-heeled will sleep better on board, economy class would
also be revamped.

Mr Fyfe said the economy cabin would be refitted with slimline seats,
giving about 3.8 centimetres more leg room and seat-back videos.

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