Auckland-New York step closer thanks to Air NZ Boeing purchase

Aviation

With the announcement that Air New Zealand is purchasing a fleet of Dreamliner aircraft, the possibility of an Auckland-New York flight has moved a step closer.

The airline industry is heading towards more and more Ultra Long Range flights, as the likes of Boeing and Airbus hone the fuel efficiency of their aircraft.

An Auckland to New York flight would be approximately 14,185km in distance, putting it neck-and-neck with the current fourth longest flight in the world – Auckland to Dubai.

It would still be a long way off Singapore Airlines’ 19-hour, 15,344 km marathon flight from the city-state to Newark, US.

The second longest flight is Auckland-Doha on Qatar Airways (14,535 km), with the Perth-London Qantas route third at 14,499 km.

Chief Executive Christopher Luxon said the Boeing 787-10 was picked because of the fuel efficiency, as well as an established working relationship with Boeing.

“This is a hugely important decision for our airline. With the 787-10 offering almost 15 per cent more space for customers and cargo than the 787-9, this investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens up new opportunities to grow.”

These new long-haul aircraft will replace Air New Zealand’s fleet of eight 777-200 aircraft, which will be phased out by 2025. The first new aircraft is expected to join the Air New Zealand fleet in late 2022 with the remainder delivered at intervals through to 2027.

It is believed that Boeing may alter the seat configuration and design to offer more range, which could mean more business class and premium economy offering.

Tips to surviving ultra long-range flights

CONSIDER THE AIRCRAFT AS MUCH AS THE AIRLINE

Increasingly frequent flyers are choosing their flights according to which aircraft are servicing their destination.

“Knowing the differences between particular aircraft is definitely an advantage when choosing long haul flights,” says airline blogger Sam Chui, adding that this rule is especially relevant for Australians and New Zealanders who travel long haul more than most nationalities.

“We’ve seen drastic improvements at the front of the cabin (first and business class),” Chui continues. “However the evolution of the economy cabin has been lacklustre.”

The one major improvement for economy passengers has been the vast improvement in air quality, noise levels, humidity and overhead space in the new generation of planes like the 787 Dreamliner, A380 and A350.

ASK YOURSELF, ‘HOW LONG CAN YOU ENDURE ECONOMY’?

Qantas’s nonstop flight between Perth and London (Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner) has room for 166 economy passengers who are in the air for up to 17 hours.

Like most flights, the service wouldn’t be profitable without an economy section even though the Qantas equivalent on its Perth to London route has been modified in recognition of the extended time in the air.

And Qantas boasts that occupancy rates have far exceeded its expectations. There’s no doubt there’s a market, but beware.

Aviation writer Jordan Chong, who flew Perth to London in economy, reports that – although the two main meal services contained healthier choices – everything else (seat pitch, blanket, pillow, in-flight entertainment) – is not too different to shorter flights.

ASK YOURSELF, ‘AM I HEALTHY ENOUGH TO FLY THESE LONG DISTANCE FLIGHTS’?

“Flying is much healthier on this new generation of planes,” Chui says. He cites both the Airbus A380 and A350 as “winners for economy passengers – especially for Australians who face long haul flights” because they offer a generous seat pitch and a reduced risk of jet lag.

So too does the Dreamliner, which – like its Airbus rivals – has “lower cabin altitude” and more humidity, meaning you should arrive with less dry skin and better sleep.

Chong is more cautious, pointing out Qantas and the University of Sydney has begun a study of frequent flyers “to monitor their physical and mental stages during their journeys”.

PREPARE YOURSELF IF YOU’RE TRAVELLING ECONOMY ON A LONG HAUL FLIGHT

New Zealanders who travel long haul more than most nationalities are becoming more savvy to better planes and in-flight choices.

“I often drink plenty of water before the flight and bring a water bottle with me to make it easier to have water at my seat,” Chong says. “Some airlines offer all passengers a bottle of water for long haul flights, while low-cost carriers charge for water.

“Loose-fitting clothing can help make the journey a bit more comfortable too. Some passengers bring pyjamas to change into as that keeps their clothes in better condition when they arrive at their destination.”

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Chief Executive Christopher Luxon says the new Boeing 787-10s are a significant step up from the current fleet.

GET SAVVY THE BEST SEATS IN ECONOMY

Choosing the best economy seats depends on the aircraft, and the airline’s particular configuration of that aircraft. But it’s also a matter of personal preference.

Some passengers want to be first off the plane so prefer the front seats in the economy section, closest to business class. Others prefer the extra leg room of the emergency exit rows. Perhaps somewhere close to a toilet if you have a toddler?

Or one of the seats near the back of the plane where the narrower fuselage reduces the number of seats per row. (The seat pitch itself doesn’t change, but you feel less crowded).

Check out the website seatguru.com for the exact seating plan for your flight.

SECURE YOUR PREFERRED SEAT IN ECONOMY

With ultra long-haul flights, such as Qantas’ non-stop flights between Perth and London, a reality, slimming down aircraft to cut costs is even more important.

Rest assured. If passengers HAVE twigged that some seats are more comfortable than others, airline executives have worked out they can charge a premium for booking them.

“Any seat with extra leg room in economy will involve an extra charge,” says Chui. “That means the exit rows and the bulkhead seats. Each airline has its own pricing structure, and it’s difficult to keep pace.”

If you’re prepared to gamble, Chui recommends hoping onto the online check-in immediately it becomes available 24 hours before departure. Some “good” seats may be available without added charges.

GET SET FOR THE IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT REVOLUTION

According to Chui, we’re in the last age of the entertainment screen. “It won’t be needed in future,” he says. “At the moment we’re seeing airlines put in bigger screens with higher resolution.

“But broadband on planes is soon going to be so fast and so strong, everyone will be able to download their own content on their own devices via the internet.”

That, of course, will probably involve a Wi-Fi fee. “Whether the current Wi-Fi fees are justifiable is debatable,” Chui says.

Is it a reflection of the real cost of providing the satellite connection? Or just another way to grab revenue?

The world’s longest flights:

– Newark-Singapore, Singapore Airlines, 15,344 km
– Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 14,535 km
– London-Perth, Qantas, 14,499 km
– Dubai-Auckland, Emirates, 14,200 km
– Auckland-New York, Air New Zealand, 14,185km (not confirmed)
– Los Angeles-Singapore, United Airlines, 14,113 km
– Houston-Sydney, United Airlines, 13,833 km
– Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 13,804 km
– New York-Manila, Philippine Airlines, 13,712 km
– San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 13,592 km

Contributed by : – Stuff/Traveller