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Monday, September 01, 2008

I'm ungrateful for extra space in economy?

Air New Zealand has been improving their economy class on some aircraft types.

First to be improved was the 737 used on major domestic routes. The first several rows have been designated as Space+ with a few extra (valuable) inches of seat pitch. Space+ is not treated as a separate cabin but rather like United Airlines' economy plus it is available for free to those with status or Koru Club membership (unlike United this includes Star Alliance gold members), and also available to those on full fares. All 737's have now been fitted with Space+ seating.

Next up is the 767 used on shorthaul and secondary longhaul international routes, and the A320 used on shorthaul international routes and the odd domestic positioning flight in place of 737. Again, the front of economy is being converted to Space+. I flew the first 767 to be converted the other day and I sure appreciated the spacious legroom. The other major change on 767 and A320 aircraft is they are getting new in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems. Not only does every seat get a personal TV screen with audio-video on demand (AVOD) but USB devices and ipods can connect to it.

Further, Air NZ has started gate to gate IFE on all international aircraft that are fitted with avod. The IFE system is switched on when boarding begins and switched off on arrival back at the gate. On long flights this may not make much difference, but for short 3 hour hops this adds about 40% more viewing time (games are switched off for takeoff and landing). I've experienced this a few times in the 747 and 777 aircraft and it has made a big difference on short flights in particular. No more carefully picking short movies to watch. Unfortunately on my flight on the improved 767 the IFE system still had gremlins and we didn't have any IFE at all. (NZ made up for it with a voucher in compensation.)

Short flights on 747 and 777 aircraft are also having a further change. From December premium economy will not be sold and instead premium economy will be used as the Space+ zone.

It all sounds very good, and it is. These are some of the most comfortable economy products anywhere.

Why am I ungrateful then? It has dawned on me that I can get a much better seat on a 45 minute domestic flight or 3 hour international flight, at much lower cost, than on the long 10-14 hour longhaul flights which cost so much more. It is a bit back to front - normally the best product is saved for the longest, most high yielding routes. The optimist in me hopes that Air NZ is working on the problem and will have some improvements to announce soon for longhaul passengers.

3 comments:

Steamboat Lion said...

"Why am I ungrateful then? It has dawned on me that I can get a much better seat on a 45 minute domestic flight or 3 hour international flight, at much lower cost, than on the long 10-14 hour longhaul flights which cost so much more."

Because they want you to pay extra for Premium Economy on the long fight. They've obviously found that they can't sell those for a premium on the short flights. That's consistent with my observation. From LAX to AKL Premium Econ is full. Then the NZ destination passengers get off and their seats stay empty on the AKL-BNE (3.5 hour) flight.

I'm sure Helen Clark (NZ PM) is pleased though. Now she'll get extra leg room in seat 2F on the 8.30 am AKL-WLG every Monday morning.

michael said...

NZ already charge a pretty penny on domestic routes. They also need to differentiate themself from their comeptitors Qantas and Pac Blue hence the re introduction of catering and improved seat pitch.

Long haul seats already have slightly more legroom at 34" than most of their competitors.

libertyscott said...

Well 34" on 747s, 32" on 777s. The point remains that as a Gold Elite Airpoints member I get more legroom on a domestic flight than on a longhaul flight in the same class. Could it be that longhaul competition is fairly limited compared to domestic and shorthaul?