Airbus’ new A350-1000 will visit Auckland this week to show off the French giant’s latest development in wide body aircraft manufacturing. While media and the public will relish the visit, Airbus’ goal is to woo Air New Zealand bosses who in the market for new aircraft. To date, the national carrier has shunned Airbus in favour of rival manufacturer Boeing for its long-haul fleet, but does fly smaller A320s on domestic, trans-Tasman and Pacific Island routes.
Airbus is hoping Air New Zealand will look past its long history with Boeing. But Air New Zealand planning to replace its current Boeing 777-200ER fleet in “the first half of the next decade”, and the A350 is “one aircraft in our consideration set which includes models from both Boeing and Airbus”, a spokeswoman said. A move to the A350 would be major for Air New Zealand but it’s clearly looking at options – if only to nail down a better price from Boeing. Deals differ and are often confidential but a published 2017 price list shows an A350-1000 at US$355 million (NZ$492m). Airbus’ says the A350-1000 has a longer body than the A350-900 to accommodate 40 more passengers in a typical 3-class configuration and also features a modified wing trailing-edge, new six-wheel main landing gear and more powerful Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines. So far, 11 customers from five continents have placed orders for a total of 169 A350-1000s.
Air New Zealand could become the 12th – its domestic and short-haul planes are Airbus – but the odds aren’t stacked that way. Airlines usually stick with one manufacturer for ease of maintenance and crew training requirements. Analysts from Macquarie said in a recent research note that Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787-9 fleet (dreamliners) give it a “more efficient aircraft mix on key routes compared to competitors”, adding this would help Air New Zealand amid rising fuel prices. Air New Zealand would not comment directly on widespread rumours that Chicago will be its next long-haul destination, saying only that it is always assessing new routes. Speculation increased this month with reports that former United States President Barack Obama will visit in March, at the airline’s invitation. “Air New Zealand has not signed any agreement to bring President Obama to New Zealand,” the spokeswoman said, which didn’t rule it in or out.
A new long-haul destination was likely to be popular with travellers, with Flight Centre reporting strong demand for international travel. “Passengers are going further afield and will only continue to do so,” Fight Centre NZ product general manager Sean Berenson said. Kiwi travellers were also making more frequent trips and strong international competition to and from New Zealand was keeping fares low, he said. “These increases are largely due to the affordability of travel in recent years, but also because of the number of carriers and routes now [from] New Zealand,” he said. Australia, the South Pacific, North America and the United Kingdom continue […]