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The folks over at Air New Zealand are pretty darn excited to offer up some cool seats on their newest non-stop 777-300 service between Auckland and San Francisco, and they're about to brag all over the Bay City.
Service between the cities isn't actually new, but the airline used to fly Boeing 747s on it. Now that those big birds have been retired from their fleet, the 777 is doing the heavy lifting. With this aircraft switch comes a new and improved cabin for the 12-hour flight, finally including those futuristic SpaceSeats in premium economy and the comfy SkyCouch in economy.
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New airplane alert!
163 Boeing 787 Dreamliners are flying the skies right now, a number current as of this week. That includes 162 787-8s and 1 lonely 787-9 for Air New Zealand, which only headed from Boeing's headquarters in Everett, WA to its new home of Auckland, New Zealand at dawn this morning.
That 787-9 won't be lonely for long, however; over 25 airlines have placed orders for more than 400 of the sleek and efficient jets. So why are we getting excited for yet another Dreamliner? The answer is shockingly simple: it's awesomer. Sure, the original flavor 787-8 is great and Boeing will continue to roll them out, but the 787-9 is, as Daft Punk would sing, "harder, better, faster, stronger."
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An idea from Air New Zealand that practically revolutionized economy class travel is now being licensed out to different airlines to tempt flyers to book long-haul flights. China Airlines liked the kiwi airline's SkyCouch so much, they arranged to have it on its newest planes.
China Airlines, the first airline to agree to (what we can only imagine) a hefty licensing price-tag, will now include the roomy row of economy seats to its newest delivery of 777-300ERs. The keys to these new birds should be handed over by September of this year, so if you've got plans to spend some time in the air over the Pacific on one of these planes, you might get lucky.
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Just in case you missed it, the seats are basically coach seats with the middle blocked out. Then at cruising altitude the three seats transform into a couch of sorts, where you and your traveling companion can snuggle up for the long-haul flight over the Pacific. It seems that these seats are catching on, and they might just make their way over to other airlines as well.
Apparently the airline has already been chatting with like 12 other airlines about the ability to license the Air New Zealand invention. Airline officials seem to have no problem doing so, but they are pretty honest when they state that they’re looking for quite a bit of cash for them to share their clever idea. Sounds likeif all goes wellt might be around the end of the year when we start to hear about the snuggle-seats being offered up elsewhere.
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In the States we've seen airfares go from "bundled" to a more a la carte, "unbundled" model. Then Uncle Sam stepped in and claimed it was unfair and moved to a more transparent pricing structure. Naturally, some spirited airlines stomped their feet. All of the pricing changes lately with US carriers actually make us thankful we don't regularly fly Air Asia X.
The long haul cousin of Air Asia has been hugely successful with ancillary revenue, regularly raking in some of the highest figures worldwide. The low-cost carrier only charges customers basic flight prices, providing higher levels of service for further fees. We're not just talking about adult beverages or pillows and blankets; on short and long-haul service, Air Asia charges for food, entertainment and seamless flight connections.
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It's an unconventional seating ideaselling three economy seats with extra room as a kind of convertible bed for two passengersand AirNZ has been going about marketing it in unconventional ways. But then, when have they ever been conventional? They have a pitch-black plane and body-painted crew for goshsakes!
Lately, however, Air New Zealand has taken the celebrity route to pitch the seats, involving such unlikely names as Richard Simmons, David Hasselhoff, Snoop Dogg and now...the scandalous Playboy twin ex-girlfriends of Hugh Hefner. Watch above as they flirt with AirNZ's latest mascots.
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It seems like all we’ve been talking about since our visit to Boeing a couple weeks ago is Air New Zealand’s new 777-300ER and its paradigm-changing interiors (yeah, we totally just used the word paradigm). Now it’s time to look inside the mind of the man behind the airline’s whole initiative, former Air New Zealand International Airline General Manager, Ed Sims.
We caught up with Ed on the delivery flight of the plane from the Boeing facility in Everett, Washington, down to Los Angeles and heard all about what he thinks makes the plane so special. Spoiler alert: it's more than just those spiffy new SkyCouches.
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As you might have guessed from our preview last week, we were all up in and around the all-new interiors on the first of Air New Zealand’s five 777-300ER’s last week, when we hopped aboard the delivery flight from Seattle to Los Angeles. Of course our first order of business was to cuddle up in the new SkyCouch.
Here’s a quick video we asked one of the friendly flight attendants to make showing us how to set up the SkyCouch for slumber, and then we’ll fill you in on our experience test-napping it during the long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Auckland...
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Earlier this week, we took a pre-holiday jaunt up to Seattle for a quickie tour of the Boeing factory, including visits to the 777 and 787 production lines, with the final goal being a tete-a-tete with Air New Zealand’s new SkyCouch-equipped 777-300ERs.
At their flagship facility in Everett, Washington, just outside Seattle, we heard about the company’s strategic planning for the future and it’s twin-pronged strategy of promoting the 777 and 787 as complementary components of an airline’s service. As the giant planes ever so slowly inched along on their assembly lines, we learned that although Boeing is only turning out 5 777s monthly right now, the plan is to increase productivity to 8.3 a month by 2013, for a grand total of 100 a year.
And then we were off to visit the big guns: the 787 Dreamliner and Air NZ's new baby, a shiny 777-300ER.
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SkyCouch flights were supposed to launch between Auckland and Los Angeles beginning next April, and it looks like things are totally on schedule right now. We took a look at seating options for the last week in April 2011, and both the SkyCouch and updated Premium Economy seating options are now available for booking.
Last week we shared Our Ulitmate Guide to Air New Zealand's New 'SkyCouch' Seats, complete with a few titillating photos.
This week, we're going to show you the video demo we made showing how the nifty airborne lounging seats actually work, as well as one of the new Premium Economy seating modules that will be debuting on Air New Zealand's new set of Boeing 777-300's later this year.
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The official Air New Zealand shot of two yuppies on the SkyCouch
We’ve been eagerly anticipating the Stateside unveiling of Air New Zealand’s new SkyCouch for months now since the Kiwis got a first look way back in January, and last night, we got the chance to check out the divine divans for ourselves at the company’s headquarters by LAX.
Born out of a desire to “revolutionize the way people at the back of the plane experience their journey,” Air New Zealand has taken the typical three-seat row and turned it into a couch so that economy travelers can stretch out and practically lie flat—albeit in still slightly cramped quarters.
So can two regular people fit on the SkyCouch, and what's the deal with the new premium economy seats? Find out, after the jump!