A day before its delivery flight, I went onboard Air New Zealand's first Boeing 787-9 – the first 787-9 delivered to any customer and...

I didn’t note the diameter of the individual screen for each Business Premier seat – it looked to be about 15 inches and comes with all the usual USB and headset sockets, as well as a PC power socket – but, because of the angled nature of the seat, the screen when stowed is positioned in the wall beside the armchair rather than in front. The screen swings out for viewing and its tilt can be adjusted to the passenger’s most convenient viewing angle.

Unlike its 787-9 Business Premier cabin, Air New Zealand’s 787-9 Premium Economy cabin has a brand-new seat design. Air New Zealand chose not to adopt the unique, sculptured Premium Economy Spaceseats it has installed in its Boeing 777-300ERs and which are almost like business class flat-beds.


Each Premium Economy seat in Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9s offers 41 inches of seat pitch, a 5-inch-wide armrest and 9 inches of recline

Each Premium Economy seat in Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9s offers 41 inches of seat pitch, a 5-inch-wide armrest and 9 inches of recline

 

According to Air New Zealand executives, the main reason it hasn’t adopted the Spaceseat for the 787-9 is that on many of the Pacific Rim and Asian routes the airline’s 787-9s will operate, premium cconomy class is not yet a well-known service product and most passengers wouldn’t value the Spaceseat product sufficiently to pay what Air New Zealand needs to charge for it.

So, instead, Air New Zealand has worked with seat manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace – whose U.S. and UK divisions provide all of the three different seat classes in Air New Zealand’s 787-9s – to create a more conventional but very comfortable new Premium Economy seat.

Each of the 21 leather-covered Premium Economy seats in the airline’s 787-9 boasts both an adjustable leg rest and an adjustable foot bar. Seat pitch is an impressive 41 inches. The seat’s armrest is five inches wide and the seat offers nine inches of recline.

The Ecomonitor seatback IFE screen of each Premium Economy seat in Air New Zealand's 787-9s is 11 inches in diameter, tilts to offer an adjustable viewing angle and has no need of a thick insulating border because it does not radiate much heat

The Ecomonitor seatback IFE screen of each Premium Economy seat in Air New Zealand’s 787-9s is 11 inches in diameter, tilts to offer an adjustable viewing angle and has no need of a thick insulating border because it does not radiate much heat

 

Air New Zealand describes its 787-9 Premium Economy seat as “Business-lite”. Each of the three Premium Economy seat rows in the airline’s 787-9s are in 2-3-2 configuration but in the 787-9 this feels very spacious. All the 787-9 Premium Economy seats are 19.3 inches wide.

The seat’s IFE screen is 11 inches in diameter. The screen – an ‘Econonitor’ whose low cooling requirements mean the broad insulating border found around most IFE screens isn’t required, as is also the case for the IFE screen at each Economy seat – offers adjustable tilt, to provide a more convenient viewing angle for the passenger.

In the Air New Zealand 787-9’s two Economy cabins, each seat row has a 3-3-3 configuration. Although many people prefer a 2-4-2 Economy row configuration, where no seat is more than one seat away from an aisle, Air New Zealand decided that it needed nine seats per row – mainly because its 787-9s will be operating many price-sensitive tourist routes.

Each Economy class seat in Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9s is reclined by an inch even when in the upright position. The seatback in-flight entertainment screen is app-driven, touchscreen-controlled and can be tilted several degrees for a better viewing angle

Each Economy class seat in Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9s is reclined by an inch even when in the upright position. The seatback in-flight entertainment screen is app-driven, touchscreen-controlled and can be tilted several degrees for a better viewing angle

 

Having nine-abreast rows means each 787-9 Economy seat is only 17.2 inches wide. However, Air New Zealand has designed each economy seat to have 1 inch of recline when the seat is in its fully upright position, allowing the passenger to relax into it and not immediately feel the seat needs to be reclined fully. Each 787-9 Economy seat has 5 inches of recline in total.

For the 787-9, Air New Zealand has modified the basic Zodiac Aerospace 5751 Economy seat by adding more back-rest foam to each seat to offer passengers more lumbar support.

It has also redesigned the seat’s headrest for greater head and neck support. There are two PC power outlets for every group of three economy seats.

The sleek, shark-like lines of the Boeing 787-9 are very evident in this photograph of Air New Zealand's first Boeing 787-9

The sleek, shark-like lines of the Boeing 787-9 are very evident in this photograph of Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787-9

 

The Economy seat IFE touchscreens are all 9 inches in diameter and as Ecomonitors like those in Premium Economy and Business Premier, they offer adjustable tilt and have no need for thick insulating borders because they don’t produce a great deal of waste heat.

Each IFE screen throughout the aircraft offers USB and both one- and two-pronged headset sockets right underneath the monitor. These sockets light up when the passenger waves his or her hand across in front of them, making it easy to plug in a headset or USB connection in the dark.

Seat pitch for the Economy seat rows is either 31 inches or 33 inches, depending on the row. The latter, higher pitch is for the 14 three-seat Skycouch units Air New Zealand is installing in outboard-row positions in each Boeing 787-9.

Seen close up, it is evident how large the flight deck windows of the Boeing 787-9 are

Seen close up, it is evident how large the flight deck windows of the Boeing 787-9 are

 

Bamford says each Skycouch is suitable for two adults or one adult and up to two children to sleep in a full-length flat position. For sleeping, the base of each Skycouch seat comes up into a horizontal position to make an extra sleeping cushion area between the seat row and the row in front. A mattress is laid down on top of this for sleeping or resting.

Where possible the airline sells the three-seat Skycouch groups as units – it has a variety of pricing options for different family combinations – and if necessary holds the adjacent center-aisle seat for the same reservation in case the group purchasing the Skycouch space is a family of two parents and two children.

Bamford says that each Skycouch row has a “cool seatbelt system” which allows children or adults to sit in a variety of different positions when the seatbelt sign is turned on. For instance, children can sit with their feet up on the Skycouch mattress.

This photo shows two Economy class Skycouch seat rows on Air New Zealand's first Boeing 787-9. The first row shows the Skycouch with the mattress placed on top for sleep, while the second row shows the Skycouch without the mattress but with the bases of the seats brought up to provide lounging space for children or adults

This photo shows two Economy class Skycouch seat rows on Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787-9. The first row shows the Skycouch with the mattress placed on top for sleep, while the second row shows the Skycouch without the mattress but with the bases of the seats brought up to provide lounging space for children or adults

 

Also, possibly uniquely, Air New Zealand has also designed the Skycouch units so that the outboard armrests – those nearest the window – can be raised fully. (Normally such armrests can’t be raised). This allows children or adults to lie or sit with their backs supported by the cabin sidewall.

Senior Boeing executives attest that Air New Zealand, which as 787-9 launch customer placed its initial order as long as ago as 2005, has given lots of thought over the intervening years to creating in all three cabin classes a wide variety of design touches aimed at improving passenger comfort and convenience.

On a fleet type which will be operating most of its scheduled flights on routes of 10 hours or longer, this seems entirely sensible.

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