Game Changer: Inside Air New Zealand’s New Boeing 777-300ER
Ed Sims, Group General Manager for Air New Zealand’s international airline, is one very happy man. Air New Zealand (ANZ) took delivery of their first Boeing 777-300ER, and his brainchild. As reported by NYCAviation, it is the first of five 773’s due to be delivered in coming months, and predictably represents a major advancement in the global reach capability of ANZ. The 773 will complement the already existing 777E/LR fleet and will gradually phases out their current fleet of the B744-type aircraft. As cool as the delivery of any new aircraft is, the physical delivery of the plane isn’t really the whole story. To truly grasp the gravity of what this addition really means and why Ed Sims is so happy, you have to step inside.
Welcome aboard one of the biggest game changers to hit the commercial aviation industry in quite some time. Throughout the course of a four year intensive project spearheaded by Mr. Sims, a coalition of partners including Boeing, the Palo-Alto CA based design firm IDEO, and ANZ staff have revolutionized the way customers in all classes will experience long-haul flight. Unlike many airlines, which tend to only renovate their first or business class level products, ANZ started their renovation process with the economy class and then worked forward. When they set out at the beginning of this project, they had a few rules in mind: First, the aircraft couldn’t weigh more than their current product; second, it couldn’t cost more to the consumer; and third, it couldn’t take up any more space than the previous cabin layout. Any one of these on their own is no small task to accomplish; but combining all three together is quite a tall order. Additionally, and arguably most importantly, Air New Zealand sought (successfully I might add) to act on a “new” philosophy of consumer/customer appreciation that appreciates everyone on board the aircraft.
Just boarding the aircraft you notice the difference. Upon entering the aircraft, the passenger is greeted by a spacious lounge/gallery as opposed to the industrial-esque galley’s we are so accustomed to. This space is open to all classes and features a TV screen displaying everything from presentations of the destination to walk through wine tastings. From here we’ll take a textual walk through of the plane from the back.
Starting in the rear of the aircraft is the economy section most of us know and have at least semi-fond memories of. Working on the premise vocalized by Mr. Sims that “airlines should treat economy passengers with a little more respect, and actually acknowledge the money they paid for the seat”, (are you listening domestic US carriers?) ANZ embarked on a mission to change the way coach is perceived and experienced. The newly developed general economy class has been subject to an extensive list of innovations.
Chief among them has been the development of the SkyCoach, aka Cuddle Class; aka Snuggle Class; aka, well…other things we won’t add. Mr. Sims describes this new seating addition as achieving the “holy grail” of economy class travel: the lie flat option. ANZ is the first and currently only airline to be operating anything remotely close, and you can rest assured that it’ll stay that way for the time being as they also own the seat. Proclaiming that “holy grail” of lie flat coach both reached and conquered is not an exaggeration either: how many of us have endured long haul flights in the back of X widebody stuffed in cattle class? The SkyCouch allows the economy flier to affordably stretch out and catch some ZZ’s on a long flight. Of course you might want to take a significant other, or at least someone you’re pretty comfortable with: the cuddle class nickname is well earned. We’ll let the pictures do most of the talking on explanation, but basically it functions somewhat like a horizontal Lazy-Boy: the bottom can be pulled up to lie flush with the seat itself, and then you add some blankets, maybe a sheet, fluff your pillow and snuggle up for a good, economical rest.
Other features new to economy take a bit more searching. They include personal cup holders (it’s amazing how handy it becomes), complimentary pillows gate to gate IFE service, and the introduction of an induction oven to the cabin. The last one seems relatively insignificant since they’ve been on planes before. But to offer oven cooked food; “steak the way you like it”, or “eggs with real toast for breakfast” as Mr. Sims explains, is novel to economy. NEXT PAGE >>>