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Air New Zealand axe business class trans-Tasman

21st Mar 2010

Air New Zealand is to remove business class seats from most of its aircraft flying between Australia, the Pacific Islands, and New Zealand. It also plans to slash fares trans-Tasman, and move to a new way of selling onboard perks on its new 171-seat single class Airbus A320s.

The shift to a single-class configuration for its fleet of 12 A320 aircraft will signal a radical change for Air NZ. The change to a single class will allow it to pack an extra 19 economy seats on each of the A320s, taking their total maximum number of passengers to 171. However it means that passengers seeking Business Class will have to pick and choose which aircraft they fly on.

There will be no business class at all on any services to Christchurch and Wellington from Australia. However to Auckland, on the few flights each week that are operated by wide-body aircraft, there will still be premium seating. The change is also to be introduced on Pacific Island flights.

Air New Zealand is however joining the rest of the airline world, with self check-in kiosks. These will be installed at the Australian airports it flies to within the next year. It will extend the self check-in kiosks from domestic to international terminals in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch by the end of July.

The move seems to be partly a clever one, as many more companies now refuse to permit their staff to fly business class. They will however allow them to fly in economy - and then buy extras, to make it in effect a business class service.

As a result Air New Zealand will introduce a range of options for buying a ticket, which will include the option of simply buying a seat. With this there is no free food, alcohol, or luggage (other than a carry on allowance) although the seats on the newly refitted A320s will come with seatback entertainment. There is also the Business Class (called deluxe) package that includes two priority bags, lounge access, a meal and drinks and a guaranteed empty seat next door. Which, in effect, is what passengers would have bought, if they bought a business class seat before that class was axed.

There will however be no way to get the almost-but-not-quite business class for Frequent Flyers of other Star Alliance carriers. They will be downgraded to economy class, and expected to pay for the upgrade to business themselves.

Christchurch will be the first destination where stripped A320 planes will fly from in September 2010, followed by Christchurch and the Pacific Islands by the start of 2011.



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