Air New Zealand is dropping $3.5 billion NZD on upgrading and expanding its fleet over the next five years as its last Boeing 777-300 leaves the Victorville boneyard to return to active service.
The NZ carrier is planning to buy eight new 787-9 Dreamliners and five Airbus A320neo aircraft for its Tasman and Pacific Island services, and is in final negotiations to purchase another 777-300ER for its international network. In addition, it is planning interior refurbishments for its existing 14 Dreamliners.
According to Air New Zealand chief executive officer Greg Foran, the airline will fly 4.5 million seats on 39 international routes between March and October this year, with international capacity up to around 91 per cent of pre-pandemic levels and domestic capacity at 100 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“Our fleet investment, capacity update, and marketing spend represent a significant commitment to New Zealand’s tourism industry,” he said.
“By investing in new and retrofitted aircraft, adding more seats to our international routes, and increasing our marketing presence in key markets, we’re making it even easier for visitors to tick New Zealand off their bucket lists.
“We’re proud to be making this investment in our fleet and in the future of air travel. Investing in new and retrofitted aircraft will help us attract even more premium leisure customers from the Pacific Rim to New Zealand, boosting the growth of our tourism industry.”
Air New Zealand’s investment comes as the last of four of its Boeing 777-300 planes is brought out of storage in the Mojave Desert after more than 855 days. The fleet of seven 777s was mothballed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with four sent to Victorville and three stored in Auckland.
The aircraft, ZK-OKM, returned to Auckland in the evening of May 10 after its journey back from the US, where it will spend time in the maintenance hangar before returning to commercial service as flight NZ8 to San Francisco on Saturday.
According to Air New Zealand’s chief operations officer Alex Marren, the return of ZK-OKM is a sign that the airline has bounced back from COVID-19.
“Having all of our 777-300s back will help build more resilience and more seats into our international operation, meaning we can fly more customers to where they need to go – whether that’s San Francisco, Honolulu, Houston or Tahiti,” she said.
“An incredible amount of work has gone into bringing these aircraft back. The reanimation of OKM alone has taken more than seven weeks and involved more than 1500 man hours of work.”