Air New Zealand intends to use its first three 777-300ERs to operate between Auckland, Los Angeles and London beginning in April 2011.

Air New Zealand has taken delivery of its first 777-300ER, at a December 22 ceremony at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, where the final-assembly lines for Boeing’s widebody models are located.

The airline ordered the first of five 777-300ERs in August 2007 to complement eight Boeing 777-200ERs already in its long-haul fleet. Air New Zealand intends to use its first three 777-300ERs to operate between Auckland, Los Angeles and London beginning in April 2011.

Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300ERs feature unique new seats in their Economy, Premium Economy and Business Premier cabins. For example, “Skycouch” seating, known as CuddleClass, is available in the first 10 rows of Economy Class and will allow passengers who book three-wide seat space to raise the footrests with the touch of a button to create a lie-flat space similar to a sofa at home.

Meanwhile, the airline’s Premium Economy “Spaceseats” will feature a larger seat area and more room between passengers. When the seat reclines, it slides forward, preserving the personal space of the passenger sitting behind.

Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER is photographed taking off from Paine Field, where Boeing's widebody final-assembly lines are located

All seats have in-seat power and USB connections, allowing passengers to connect their MP3 players with the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment systems.

“The Boeing 777-300ER was an excellent choice for the routes Air New Zealand operates, especially given its 15 per cent fuel efficiency improvements over current aircraft and excellent customer proposition,” says Ed Sims, Air New Zealand Group’s general manager, international airline.

“The ability to customize the 777-300ER has enabled Air New Zealand to create a number of world firsts,” says Sims. “Few, if any airlines have invested time and money beyond First Class. We have re-invented our Economy and Premium Economy customer experience in every aspect. We’ve created the world’s first economy seating that enables people to lie-down, and a Premium Economy seat many airlines call Business Class.”

Adds Sims: “We’re also the first commercial airline to introduce induction ovens for all cabins to give our customers real food; and have developed an IFE system to enable people to be in control of their whole in-flight experience.”

More than 30 airlines have been in contact with Air New Zealand regarding the new seats, and formal negotiations are underway with carriers from Asia, North America and Europe to license the seats following an 18 month period of exclusivity for Air New Zealand.

Highlights of Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER interior include:

● Skycouch – affectionately known as Cuddle Class, giving couples and families the opportunity to lie down like they would on their couch at home;

● Two distinctive Premium Economy seating designs to meet the demands of both individual travellers and couples;

● Induction ovens in all cabins, giving customers the opportunity to have steak cooked the way they want it, fresh pizza and burgers, toast and eggs. Air New Zealand says it is the first commercial airline to have this feature;

● A Kiwi-designed pillow that slips onto the winged headrest in economy (meaning the challenge of pillow slippage is gone forever);

● Unique bathroom imagery with wallpaper depicting book cases, chandeliers and other home interior elements;

● An on-demand food and beverage service via the IFE system in every class;

● Children’s story-time in the rear galley hosted by Air New Zealand’s cabin crew; and

● Inflight wine tasting in the forward galley hosted by the airline’s Inflight Concierges.

The aircraft is registered ZK-OKM and was due to leave the Boeing facility at Everett at 3 p.m. local time on December 22, flying to Los Angeles before arriving into Auckland at 8:45 a.m. local time on Christmas Eve, December 24.

Air New Zealand’s second 777-300ER is due for delivery in February and the third in April. The airline’s 777-300ER is configured with 244 in Economy (including 60 seats creating 20 Skycouch combinations), 50 in Premium Economy and 44 in Business Premier, for a total of 338 seats.

Air New Zealand currently has 35 Boeing jets in its fleet and will be the first airline to take delivery of the 787-9 Dreamliner, with eight on order. The airline also operates Boeing 737-300s, 747-400s and 767-300ERs.

Boeing claims the Boeing 777-300ER is 19 per cent lighter than its closest competitor, the Airbus A340-600, greatly reducing its fuel requirement, producing 22 per cent less carbon dioxide per seat and costing 20 per cent less to operate per seat.

The 777-300ER has a maximum range of 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 km). A total of customers around the world have ordered more than 1,100 777s.

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