Just before Christmas, Air New Zealand took delivery of its very first 777-300ER. These airplanes are meant to replace the 747-400s that do the long haul flying for the airline, and Air NZ has really done a fantastic job making the experience much better than the airline’s already high quality experience out there today. While the airplane may look like any other 777 on the outside, what Air New Zealand has done on the inside makes it one of the best products I’ve seen. And this isn’t just from pictures. I was able to take a tour of the airplane when it stopped in LA on its delivery flight.
When I went down to New Zealand for the interior unveiling last January, it looked like a very ambitious effort. I liked what I saw, but it was just a prototype in a nondescript space in Auckland. Seeing it all on the airplane in full force really hammers home how great this is. And it’s not just the seats. It’s really the entire experience. That’s something that only rarely gets enough attention. Below, I have six videos that take a tour through several parts of the onboard experience. Take a look and then come back for more discussion.
Having been on the airplane, I have to say that it’s different, and even better, in person. The airline really has set a standard for travel, actually making its seats white and “ink” (um, black) with mood-lighting to make it feel more like a private jet experience. Being onboard, you really get that sensation more than on any other commercial airline I’ve been on. (And no, I haven’t been on the Singapore A340-500 with 100 biz class seats.)
The seats are innovative in all three cabins and they all appear to be contenders for best-in-class. But I’ve already talked about those when I visited Auckland last year. What really grabbed me was the soft product and the way that it caters to the customer in ways that I don’t think we often see from airlines. It also adds some of that Kiwi humor into the mix to prevent people from taking themselves too seriously.
For example, the lavs have wallpaper on the side with different designs. One has a bookshelf with a bunch of books (including the “Kiwis Have Big Noses” tome which is apparently highly respected in academic circles). Another has a chandelier one one side with what looks like the reflection on the adjacent wall. The reflection, however, has knives, spoons, and yes, forks in it. My favorite might be the lav which actually has a window inside. Across from the window, you see this:
I also like that the amenity kits in business class have eyeshades with different designs on them. Some have old-time aviator goggles, others have bird eyes. The idea being that seeing some of the high-powered Kiwi businesspeople walking around in their pajamas wearing these things will help to lighten the mood a little. I agree, and it’s very New Zealand-appropriate.
Another thing that Air New Zealand has figured out is that if you make kids happy, their parents will be happy. And since Air New Zealand carries a ton of family leisure travelers, that’s really important. If the airline knows a kid is traveling, the headrest will be given the kids’ cover to make it special. Also, when the kid arrives at the seat, there will be a snackbox waiting. Kids don’t always wait for mealtime, so this will be a welcome way to start the flight. The kids will also get a bag with a bunch of goodies and there’s an extensive kid section on the inflight entertainment. That’s just smart.
Possibly one of the more interesting moves is the use of common space. Virgin Atlantic certainly has done this well with the bar for premium passengers, and Air New Zealand will do the same thing with a twist. In the front galley, they will be able to hold wine tastings with its Kiwi wines for business class customers. It’s a good move because it fits with the Kiwi wine culture, just as Virgin Atlantic’s cool bar fits with its image.
In the back galley, the crew expects to have story time for kids. They can read to the kids or they have a 23 inch LCD screen that can have movies shown. Getting the kids together and relieving the parents from duty for a little while is going to pay dividends.
In the end, Air New Zealand has really created a special atmosphere on the airplane and that’s something very few airlines have been able to do. The airplane starts flying some days between LA and Auckland on January 16. By April, flights 1 and 2, the ones that go between Auckland, LA, and London will have the new product.
Story time sounds great as long as there aren’t too many overprotective parents!
Not sure I would like those middle seats, looks like you would be sitting at a slight angle which would bug me I think. Plus having to turn a bit sideways in the seat to talk to your neighbor doesn’t seem comfortable.
I like that they are having some fun in the toilet area with the wall paper, but I also see stupid people defacing those “books” to give them new titles. And yes stupid people travel in all classes…..LOL
How are prices shown on those view screens, what currency is shown? Are the currencies changed by the market/direction the airplane is traveling?
I believe the currency will vary depending upon the route being flown, but I imagine it will likely always show the NZ Dollar.
It looks like the new business class seats use a mattress pad that is presumably set up by the FA, just as with their current seats. If I were the type of person who could go to sleep quickly and not wake up in the middle of the flight, this would be fine. But I tend to be restless, and so the “wait for the FA to make / unmake my bed” system just doesn’t work for me at all. I’d give up the cushioning of the mattress pad in order to be able to recline into a bed at will.
I just love the way they have really thought about the passenger experience and looked for ways to enhance it for all passengers not just for those up front. I think it shows that with some creative thinking and passion for your business you can differentiate your offering from the crowd. I hope some of the other key marketing folk at other airlines are taking a close look at this.
Very cool. This sounds like a an airline with empowered employees and great ideas. The added perks for kids is indeed very smart. I think in addition to simply keeping the kids busy, it’s good marketing to let parents know that they’re welcome aboard their airline and not an annoyance to other passengers.
About those “cuddle class” seats: I take it you need to buy all 3 seats, hope that nobody takes the middle seat, or pile on a 3-person cuddle over the Pacific?
I also have to disagree, even without having been in the plane, that the Economy seats are “contenders for best-in-class.” This 777 has seats crammed in 10-across, while most 777’s have only 9-across. I don’t know how chopping an inch or two off the width of any economy seat is going to make a 12-hour trip any better, regardless of color schemes or potential 3-deep cuddling.
I think it works like this, based on an earlier Cranky post – if you want the Skycouch, you have to buy the third seat, at something like half of the normal fare. I guess you could try to buy a window-middle or aisle-middle combo and roll the dice on the third person not showing up. Whether the FA would make up the couch for you when you didn’t pay for third seat, though, is an open question.
I’m guessing that they wouldn’t allow the threesome regardless, though.
I fly domestic only, but, really how often would you see an EMPTY SEAT next to you internationally? In other words, how often would you even be trying out these couches, inflight with load factors and CASH being an issue?
Well if you already have to buy at least three seats if you have kids, then it’s just an added bonus that you get the cuddle seat. I don’t expect hoards of people will buy it for every flight, but it’s a nice option right? Especially if you and your significant other have trouble sleeping on planes and want to arrive refreshed. It’s cheaper than upgrading to business class where you’d get a lie flat seat.
You can think of the SkyCouch as being like Economy Plus in that you can’t just sit there unless you’ve bought a ticket for it. So you won’t just get assigned a window seat there and hope nobody sits next to you. You would have to pay to sit in that area and that would involve buying all three seats.
For example, I just did a search for LAX to London on a random day in May. It’s $453 one way for a regular coach seat but an additional $700 if you want all three seats. That’s more than Premium Economy would be, but you’re getting all three seats for yourself. If you had two people, it would be $400 extra for the SkyCouch. And if you had 2 adults and a kid, it would be only $100 extra.
Erik – Definitely a good point on the seat width, but it didn’t bother me when I was sitting there. I’m not that wide, so it doesn’t bother me personally, but I can see how it would others.
Thanks for the clarification on the seats, Brett. The couch is certainly a novel idea and I’m curious if it will become a permanent fixture.
My #1 beef with Economy seats is not legroom (even though I’m 6’2″) but width. I don’t particularly enjoy rubbing shoulders for hours with strangers or elbow-battling for armrest space. In other words, cramming 10-abreast seating in a plane that’s narrower than a 747 would not be my idea of fun! In consideration of some truly ugly configurations like the occasional 8-abreast 767 or 9-abreast A300 I’ve seen, I’m hoping that this isn’t a trend that will stick and that ANZ will be called out on it.
I think the width might be a tradeoff that they had to make to fit within the design constraints. I remember when they initially embarked upon designing their 777 cabin it had to have a lie down product for coach passengers, as well as be revenue neutral. I wonder if the tradeoff was going 10 abreast? Thats probably why getting the Skycouch isn’t the same price as buying that middle seat.
Well, this has been happening for awhile now, and I don’t see anyone going back on the decision yet. Air France and Emirates are two airlines that do the 10-abreast, and Emirates has had it for a long time now. Nick is right – it was an effort to make the changes possible without sacrificing too much revenue. If enough people balk, it will change, but it honestly felt quite comfortable so I’ll be interested to see how people who actually fly it for 12 hours feel.
I love the idea of kids activities, it’s really a shame no one has done it before, every parent has thought of it and wished for it as it’s incredibly hard sometimes to keep young kids interested and quiet on trips. An active mind always helps, and they want some interaction with other passengers, it’s natural curiosity.
Air New Zealand Rocks!
thanks for the on your knees homage to ANZ. Did they give you upgrades for this drivel?
Esteban, I’m not sure the last time you flew coach, but these are pretty nice services.
And to answer your question, Cranky posts his Ethics policy here: http://crankyflier.com/ethics/ which lists what he received from airlines. It clearly states that in relation to ANZ he was offered, but declined a “Flight to Seattle and 777 Delivery Flight”, and he accepted a “Trip to Auckland for media event.” Please show me another person in the media who is as open and clear with what he has both been offered and accepted by the companies he covers!
While I like ANZ’s laid back attitude the videos made me claustrophobic in all classes. I guess it is the 10 abreast in coach and then the shell design along with the darkness in the other classes. None of it really looked comfortable to me. And I must admit that being someone without kids the idea of an airline trying to attract more of them into their planes would discourage me personally from booking with them. But I can certainly understand someone with kids being attacted to it.
I thought they were rolling these out in November? Either way when I heard about these last year, I was floored. Air NZ is doing amazing things. Premium economy looks stunning…it’s business class without the bed. I suspect they will get a lot of business from these new planes.
I only wish they flew more routes so I could fly them more!
That crew uniform is REVOLTING
NZ Flight NZ6 January 30, 2011 Auckland to LAX Premium Economy seating 28A and 28B. It was our unfortunate experience on a New Zealand Air flight that was unacceptable in terms of service. We were told the plane was a new 777 and arrived late and had to be cleaned as the reason for boarding 1.5 hours late. On boarding the plane it was obvious the crew had not trained on this aircraft as we were directed down the wrong aisle to our seat s and could hear the attendants asking where various items were and how some equipment worked (We hoped an emergency did not occur and have to depend on these untrained personnel). Several seats were nonfunctional and not used. Our boarding welcome drinks arrived 1.5 hours after takeoff at 10:30 pm and our meals finally arrived at midnight or 3 hours
after takeoff. One toilet was broken leaving the 50 premium economy passengers standing in long lines. The headsets would “screech” causing us to pull them off as not to have hearing damage. We feel cheated by spending considerable money for extra service that we did not receive on Flight NZ6.
As a side note we took Flight NZ5 on January 12 from LAX to Auckland and had an excellent flight on the 747. We were met at the door by our flight attendant Max with a welcome drink and all aspects of the flight and service were delightful.
Does this airplane fly from SFO to Auckland too?