Air New Zealand has revealed a long-overdue revamp of its Business Class seats, with a brand new design for its Boeing 787 jets launching in 2024, which is set to become the carrier’s sole long-haul product in this cabin by the middle of 2027.
There’s also a Business Premier Luxe section, with either four or eight seats offering additional space and privacy at the front of each Business Class cabin section, acting as a ‘halfway house’ between Business and First Class.
The new cabin also features a 1-2-1 layout, rather than the current 1-1-1 configuration, which will see the carrier offer 26 or 50 seats in Business Class on the 787-9s (across both Business Premier and Business Premier Luxe), up from only 18 or 27 today.
It would certainly be nice to think that improved capacity might translate to more partner award availability in future!
Air New Zealand’s current Business Class
Air New Zealand’s current Business Class seat was a popular and revolutionary design when it first launched in 2003 with Virgin Atlantic, as the first inward-facing herringbone Business Class seat layout ever seen in the industry, meaning all seats face towards the aisle.
Air New Zealand has installed the seats on its Boeing 747, 777 and 787 aircraft since 2005, under licence from Virgin, who owns the design of the product.
However, 17 years later the Business Class seat landscape has changed significantly, and the product is now certainly regarded as outdated. Even Virgin Atlantic has begun replacing them with its new Cirrus NG Upper Class seats.
New Business Premier Seats
Air New Zealand is finally catching up with the crowd, selecting a brand new design by the UK’s Safran Seats GB division for its Business Class cabin – the Safran Visa.
Air New Zealand is the launch customer for the new product, however this is not an exclusive design for the airline, so we can expect to see it appearing as a Business Class seat on other carriers too in the years ahead.
The cabin is set up in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout, so all seats face the aisle, as they do with the carrier’s current Business Class design.
While many prefer the ease of looking out of the window in reverse-herringbone layouts, there are some advantages of this herringbone setup.
These include added privacy when working on a computer, and more distance between your head and the aisle, especially important for noise reduction while sleeping.
Seats are relatively narrow at 20.5″, but extend into a rather generous 80.3″ long flat bed.
There’s set to be a huge 24″ personal entertainment screen at each seat, with built-in bluetooth audio streaming functionality, plus USB-A, USB-C, and AC power outlets.
This compares very favourably even to SIA’s latest long-haul Business Class seats, which have 18″ entertainment screens.
While there are no closing privacy doors at these seats, there is a sliding privacy panel at the aisle side allowing passengers to create a slightly more enclosed private space when they desire it.
The dividing panel between the middle seat pairs can also be retracted, for couples, friends or colleagues travelling together.
Here’s how the airline describes the new product.
New Business Premier Luxe Seats
The first row bulkhead position of the Business Class cabin on Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787s will feature four Business Premier Luxe seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
That means there will be a total of four of these seats in the airline’s regular configuration with a single Business Class cabin section between the forward and second entry doors, seats 1A, 1B, 1J and 1K.
However, there will be eight of these seats in the premium-heavy configuration, which also has a smaller second Business Class cabin behind the second main entry doors and therefore benefits from a second bulkhead row in addition to row 1, meaning seats 9A, 9B, 9J and 9K will also be Business Premier Luxe options.
These seats are designed to fill a category between Business and First Class, boasting additional space over the Business Premier option, an ottoman which also allows ‘buddy dining’, and a closing privacy door for that ‘suite’ feeling.
A custom mattress in the Business Premier Luxe seat will also allow for a larger sleeping surface.
These seats will be available at an extra charge over the Business Premier fare, though the exact mechanics of this are not yet known.
With these Business Premier Luxe seats occupying the same cabin as the Business Premier ones, with no dividing partition, we expect that the soft product (i.e. service) is unlikely to be any different, so it’s really the extra space and privacy you’ll be paying for here.
Aircraft and timeline
The new products are expected to make their debut on the carrier’s non-stop New York and Chicago flights in 2024, on two upcoming Boeing 787-9 and six upcoming Boeing 787-10 deliveries, but will also be retrofitted to all the airline’s existing 14 Boeing 787-9 jets by the end of 2026.
Air New Zealand currently offers daily Boeing 787 flights between Singapore and Auckland, which means we should see the new products on that route potentially in only a couple of years from now.
The carrier’s five times weekly flights from Singapore to Christchurch remain suspended.
The new seats won’t make their way onto the airline’s six Boeing 777-300ERs, which will be retired and replaced by the Boeing 787-10s between now and June 2027.
By then, all of Air New Zealands long-haul flights will be operated by the Boeing 787s, with these new Safran Business Class cabins installed.
It’s great to see Air New Zealand finally reveal its new Business Class seats, though it’ll sadly be another couple of years before they make their debut on the carrier’s Boeing 787 jets.
After that though, a relatively rapid rollout across all of these aircraft by 2026 is promised, and by mid-2027 the Boeing 777-300ERs will have left the fleet, meaning this will be the sole Business Class product on the airline’s long-haul network.
While the Business Premier seats don’t have fully closing doors, privacy does look much improved over the current seats, unsurprising given that design is around 20 years old!
Meanwhile either four or eight Business Premier Luxe seats will offer suite-style closing doors, more space, and the option to dine with another passenger, though we expect there is unlikely to be any service differentiation.
Let’s hope Air New Zealand may also start offering better partner award space in Business Class as it increases capacity over the coming years.
(Cover Photo: Air New Zealand)