Star columnist Bert Archer snuggles down in Air New Zealand's new layout
New Zealanders, Australians, Americans and one Canadian got a first peek at the new design of Air New Zealand’s 777-300ER on the runway at the Boeing plant in Everett Washington yesterday [Wednesday] as it was officially handed over to the innovative small airline.
Speeches from Boeing and Air New Zealand execs alike at a dinner the night before got downright misty-eyed as they described the differences between this design and everything else on the market. Lufthansa’s made some great strides away from flash in favour of substance for its new first class cabins, the lie-flat seats are becoming more and more common among business classes, but as John Wojick, Boeing’s vice president for Asian-Pacific sales said, Air New Zealand’s new designs are “not just for premium passengers, that most people are focusing on, but the economy class, where most people travel.”
Which is not to say that the new Premium Business seats aren’t fine. They’re lovely. But then, they would be, wouldn’t they? The moveable video monitor, the lie-flat bed, room to stow all the things you might want during the flight within easy reach – if you’re paying $5,000 for your flight, you want a bit of that.
But the premium economy seats here are angled slightly outwards towards the aisles, which means that though they’re really backed in there, you have as much legroom as anyone in business class.
And then there’s the cuddle seats. Officially known as Sky Couches, these are the three-seat rows on either side of the plane’s economy class (see photo). If you buy two at regular price, you get the third for half price, and the whole row turns into a sort of futon. If you’re a couple, you can cuddle (and stay strapped in at the same time thanks to a new seatbelt design); if you’re a young family, you can frolic or cocoon in various configurations, with the bed becoming a play surface.
I’ve taken a look at all of this stuff now, but I haven’t used any of it. It sounds like nothing less than a revolution for the cattle classes, but I can’t say for sure till I hop on board for the 13-hour flight to Auckland in a few hours.
I’ll get back to you on that in my Jan. 1 column.
Thanks, Bert, for that file. And thanks to my loyal blog readers for what's been a great 2010. I might weigh in something weird - God forbid - happens over the next few days, but my intention is to take advantage of the holidays and take a break for a few days. Likely I'll get back on the horse in the New Year, so stay tuned.
Have a wonderful break if you're lucky enough to be getting one, and Happy New Year to all.