Air New Zealand is adding flash new fuel-efficient aircraft that seat more than 200 people to its domestic fleet, as demand for domestic travel skyrockets.
Three new domestic A321neos will arrive before the end of the year and will be used exclusively for flying around the country.
The planes will fly main trunk routes such as Auckland to Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin.
The move was revealed in the airline’s presentation to investors, as part of its recent annual result.
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The national carrier suffered a net loss of $ 591 million in the year to June 30, but is eyeing a strong recovery in the coming year.
The airline’s domestic jet fleet is currently made up of A320 aircraft, which seat 171 people.
The A321neo is a stretch version and passengers can look forward to more fuel-efficient engines, a quieter ride and larger overhead lockers.
The new domestic version will seat 217 passengers, 46 more than the current A320s that fly around the country.
Neo stands for “new engine option” and is roughly 15% more fuel-efficient than comparable models.
The A321neo was first introduced to Air New Zealand’s fleet in 2018 and is used for international flying to places like Australia and the islands – although occasionally pops up on the domestic network. These planes are equipped with WiFi and seatback screens for entertainment.
However, the three new A321s will be exclusively used for domestic and won’t have extra features like WiFi.
“The new A321neos have 217 seats for our customers and drop-down screens from the ceiling similar to the current Domestic A320 aircraft, meaning our customers still get the opportunity to watch our Air New Zealand Quiz on the domestic flights,” said Baden Smith, General Manager Fleet Strategy and Delivery.
The new aircraft seats will be a similar size to the current domestic A320, with a Space + seating area at the front of the aircraft offering more room for frequent flyers or those who pay extra for seat selection.
Passengers will also enjoy a 2-inch recline.
The first new domestic A321 will arrive in September, with two more to follow by the end of the year. In total the airline has seven on order.
Domestic bookings have surged in recent months and had returned to pre-Covid-19 levels by April. Domestic corporate demand hasn’t quite reached 2019 levels, however, an increase in leisure trips has made up for that.
International bookings are around 65-70% of pre-Covid levels, with North America the strongest long-haul route.
The airline also reported strong growth in regional flying.