Manufacturers had been eagerly awaiting Air NZ’s decision on a replacement for its fleet of Boeing 777-200.
Airbus, with its new A350, had all been but ruled out by industry observers last week because of the cost and complexity of introducing another wide-bodied jet to a small fleet.
The choice therefore was between the new Boeing 777-900 and a later model of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Dash 10.
Air NZ today confirmed the decision to purchase eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft powered by GE Aviation’s GEnx-1B engines.
At today’s list prices, the agreement represents a value of US $2.7 billion.
This has been one of the airline’s most important fleet decisions in the past 15 years, not only in terms of the capital outlay but in ensuring it can extend its long-range aspirations to new destinations.
The Dash 10 is about six metres longer than the Dash 8 and can carry between 290 and 350 passengers.
United, British Airways and Singapore Airlines have been among the early customers.
The Dash 10 would enable Air NZ to extend its US operations beyond Houston and Chicago to New York. The airline is also negotiating access to Toronto, a new gateway in Canada. List price of a Dash 10 is around $US334million.
As is usual with such orders, Air NZ has negotiated a significant discount on current list prices and the parties have agreed not to disclose the actual purchase price.
The first of these highly fuel-efficient aircraft will join the AirNZ fleet in 2022 and together they will have the potential to save 190,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
Air NZ currently operates a fleet of 13 787-9 Dreamliners which CEO Christopher Luxon says have proved to be the perfect aircraft for the airline’s Pacific Rim focus.
“The 787-10 is longer and even more fuel efficient. However, the game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we’ve ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions similar to our current 777-200 fleet.
“This is a hugely important decision for our airline. With the 787-10 offering almost 15 percent 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,”.
In addition to the eight firm orders announced today, the agreement includes options to increase the number of aircraft from eight to up to 20.
The airline has also negotiated substitution rights that allow a switch from the larger 787-10 aircraft to smaller 787-9s, or a combination of the two models for future fleet and network flexibility. The delivery schedule can also be delayed or accelerated according to market demand.
These new long-haul aircraft will replace Air New Zealand’s fleet of eight 777-200 aircraft, which will be phased out by 2025. Combined with GE’s GEnx-1B engines, they are expected to be 25% more fuel efficient than the aircraft they’re replacing.
Air NZ’s wide-body fleet currently consists of 13 Boeing 787-9s, eight Boeing 777-200s and seven Boeing 777-300 aircraft. A 14th Boeing 787-9 will enter the fleet later this year.
The first new aircraft is expected to join the fleet in late 2022 with the remainder delivered at intervals through to 2027.