In a bit of a blow (maybe?) for Star Alliance fliers from the West Coast to Oceania and London, folks will be without the Air New Zealand signature ‘Space Seat’ in the near future.
The airline will be removing one of their flagship products on their new incoming Boeing 787 fleet and will progressively phase out the seat on their existing 777 fleet.
The seat, which was seen as industry leading in the Premium Economy market when it was first introduced, simply takes too much valuable real estate on NZ’s planes to be viable given the price point charged by the airline for their long haul routes to and from the United States and for their extension flights to London from Los Angeles.
Rather than the existing quasi-Business class like ‘Space Seat’ that are currently fitted in a 2-2-2 layout, the airline will replace them with a more traditional Premium Economy seat in a 2-4-2 layout rather than their 3-4-3 configuration in Economy Class.
The 777s that operate their US flights will be going in for scheduled maintenance and that’s when the modifications will take place. As it stands the seat count on the 777-300 fleet which operate a majority of US flights apart from Vancouver and San Francisco will increase from 44 to 54.
On the one hand, it’s a downgrade in that the hard product has been reduced to what is the equivalent of British Airways’ World Traveler Plus cabin – its basically a very minimally upgraded Economy seat with one less seat per row with added width, more leg room and a marginally better meal/beverage service than that of normal Economy. The previous incarnation of this product was more of a ‘Business Class lite’ in that it was a take on a reverse herringbone configuration that many airlines have in Business Class – it also featured less seats in the cabin which gives you more personalized service and an air of exclusivity which now no longer exists.
On the other hand, going from 44 to 54 seats on the 777 represents a 22% increase of seats in Premium Economy which means one significant thing: award redemption availability for Star Gold fliers! Given that the soft product – as in the meal, drink and additional services – will remain the same for the cabin, this is a boon for folks waiting for that elusive upgrade at the gate or for redemption deals to and from the US on Air NZ which are currently hard to come by.
I suppose it’s a compromise to make more premium seats available on NZ’s planes for Star frequent fliers while maintaining what the airline sees as a profitable seat count and revenue generator. By all measures it seems that Premium Economy is a money maker for the airline, especially given that a vast majority of Air New Zealand’s flying outside of Australia and the Pacific is at least 10 hours of flight time given their remote base in Auckland. Turns out people are willing to pay for a bit more comfort.
And while it may seem like a downgrade on the airline’s part to add more seats and remove their current ‘Space Seat’, it does also seem as though they can make it work with their current soft product and people will still be willing to pay for the added space over their current Economy Class.
What do you make of Air New Zealand’s new change to their Premium Economy? Will you be redeeming some deals on Premium Economy on your next trip to Middle Earth?