Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon has flagged capacity growth in the order of five to six per cent a year over the next five years as the airline adds a further two Boeing 787-9 aircraft to its existing order book.
The airline announced the order for two more Dreamliners, which are due for delivery in 2017 and 2018 and bring to 12 the number of 787s the airline has on firm order, on Monday.
“These are, we think the best aircraft in the world and we have been really pushing these really hard into our long-haul networks,” Luxon told guests at a National Aviation Press Club lunch in Sydney on Monday.
Air NZ has to date taken delivery of three 787-9s, which were operating from Auckland to Perth, Sydney and Shanghai. Services to Tokyo Narita are due to begin shortly.
The top-up order for additional 787-9s comes amid improved profits at the airline for a third straight year in 2013/14. Moreover, Air NZ has forecast further profit growth in 2014/15.
“The reason we are buying two more 787-9s is purely because of our improvement in results,” Luxon said.
“There reason why we have gone from six of those aircraft initially to now 12 is as our results have got better we’re taking those profits and we are ploughing it straight back into the business to make it strong, relevant and competitive for the future.”
The airline was expecting to grow its network by five to six per cent a year over the next half decade as it sought to “unlock and develop” new markets across the Pacific Rim.
“Obviously that’s pretty big growth for a developed market in this part of the world,” Luxon said.
“We do have routes in mind for these aircraft. We don’t just buy aircraft and work out where to send them, we have got markets that we think we can develop.”
Recent media reports suggested Air New Zealand was due to announce a new North American destination in the coming months, adding a fifth gateway to the five existing destinations of Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu.
Luxon said the 787-9 had performed better than expected in relation to fuel consumption and cost savings compared with the aircraft they replaced.
The popularity of the Dreamliner in the eyes of the public has also been measured, with bookings on the Perth-Auckland route between November and April 2014 up about 10 per cent compared to the year prior due, in part, to consumers choosing to fly the new generation aircraft.
The airline took delivery of its first 787-9, ZK-NZE, in July. The aircraft made its commercial debut in Air NZ colours on August 9 with a return trip between Auckland and Sydney.
The carrier said in a statement on Monday it had a further six options for 787-9s still available.