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Air New Zealand Dreamliner delay pushes back Skynest launch

written by Jake Nelson | February 22, 2024

Air New Zealand took delivery of its first 787-9 in 2014. (Image: Boeing)

Air New Zealand’s Skynest sleeping pods may not be available for passengers until 2025, with the carrier’s order of eight new 787-9 Dreamliners delayed.

In a statement announcing Air New Zealand’s half-year results, CEO Greg Foran confirmed that the new 787-9s, which will add to the carrier’s current fleet of 14 Dreamliners and feature the Skynests, are not likely to arrive until next year.

Skynest was intended to launch in September this year on flights from Auckland to Chicago. Available for $400-$600 NZD, the bunk bed-style pods, located between the economy and premium economy cabins, will be limited to one session per passenger, though families on the same ticket will be able to book separate sessions for each person pending availability.

“Boeing has now confirmed that the first of the new 787 Dreamliners is unlikely to arrive until at least mid-2025, which will delay delivery of our innovative new Skynest. The interior retrofit of our current 787 fleet remains on track,” said Foran.

“To mitigate these challenges, we introduced a dry lease 777-300ER in November. A second dry lease 777-300ER will enter the fleet mid-year and we are well advanced on negotiations for a third.”

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The airline reported $185 million NZD in earnings before tax for the first half of FY2024, translating to $129 million net profit after tax, with $3.1 billion in passenger revenue driven by what it called a “significant ramp-up in capacity across the international network”.

Air New Zealand Chair Dame Therese Walsh said that while the first half result was “solid”, it occurred against the backdrop of “significant ongoing supply chain issues” such as the Pratt & Whitney engine maintenance on its A321neo fleet, which is expected to see up to five of the new aircraft out of service at any one time over at least the next 18 months.

“On top of these operational challenges, we are now leaning into the reality of a worsening revenue and cost environment, which is expected to have a significant adverse impact on performance in the second half,” said Walsh.

“Earlier this week the airline provided a full year profit outlook, noting among other things, a deterioration in the forward bookings profile. Intense international competition features heavily in the current environment, particularly for North America where our US competitors have not yet returned to China at scale, and for now have directed some of that additional capacity to the New Zealand market, putting pressure on yields.

“The business is pulling multiple levers to mitigate the impact of these headwinds, and this is a key focus for the team.”

Air New Zealand last year posted a profit of $585 million NZD before tax and other significant items.

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