Air New Zealand will upgrade its entire fleet of long-range Boeing 777-200ER jets with new seats from tip to tail, plus an all-new inflight entertainment system using touchscreens.
The first of eight 777-200s will go under the knife in the second quarter of 2014, the airline says, “with all eight aircraft planned to be completed in the following 12 months.”
Used on a number of long haul flights, the refit will see the 777-200s sporting the latest Business Premier business class seats, along with the Premium Economy Spaceseat and Economy class seats already installed in the Kiwi flag-carrier's Boeing 777-300ER and soon for its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
However, the airline declined to share details of the specific seat configuration, but we do know that Panasonic's new touchscreen eXlite inflight entertainment system will also be installed in all seats, making Air New Zealand the first customer for the low-power lightweight kit.
Panasonic Avionics describes traits of the eXlite as “elegant industrial design, seamless interior integration, capacitive touch, proximity sensors, incredible viewing angles, and next-generation processors. It also has a streamlined architecture that reduces weight and cost.”
Depending on how airlines want the eXlite configured the system's apps can include seat-to-seat chat as well as inflight Internet access to Facebook, Twitter and email.
All said and done the project is expected to cost more than NZ$100 million (A$79 million). That is a significant upgrade, but one that will be appreciated by business people the world over.
This marks a trend in global business travel, an area that has lacked in technological updates, to try and make the overall experience both more enjoyable and productive. Whilst sometime a necessity, business travel may no longer be a an exercise in wasted time.