Press your ear up against a secluded hangar at Auckland Airport and listen closely: you might just hear the glorious rumble of a new-born Boeing Dreamliner. The future of aviation will be soaring above the clouds later this year when Air New Zealand launches its sleek new 787-9, with the first commercial service set to take place from Auckland to Perth in October.
New Zealand's national airline usually makes headlines for its fresh take on air safety videos, featuring the likes of Hobbits, Bear Grylls and, most recently, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. This time around, the Kiwi carrier is bringing innovation into the cabin in ways that will see the air travel experience reach new heights for passengers in every cabin class.
What's different about the 787-9 Dreamliner?
While the flagship aircraft has already been unveiled, Air New Zealand has a further nine Dreamliners on order. The first 787-9 Dreamliner will be iconically New Zealand, emblazoned with the official Fern Mark and the Koru – a symbol of an unfurling silver fern frond, which represents new life, growth and strength in Māori culture.
Decked out in new-look livery, the initial jet-black Boeing is set to 'breathe fresh air into global aviation' with advances in on-board comfort, inflight entertainment and reducing environmental impact.
The 787-9 is a little larger than its predecessor, the 787-8, and will be able to carry more passengers over longer distances. Like its forebear, the new and improved Dreamliner is all about green-tick efficiency, using around 20 per cent less fuel than other similarly sized aircraft with lower emissions.
What will the 787-9 Dreamliner cabins look like?
Larger windows, higher humidity and a lower cabin altitude may not sound like grand improvements, but the combination of fresher air and and more natural light means you will arrive at your destination with an extra spring in your step and be better prepared to stave off the dreaded jet-lag.
Business Premier cabins will include 18 plush leather lie-flat beds, complete with memory foam mattresses and an ottoman footrest that doubles as guest seating if you're feeling generous. With high-definition personal entertainment systems and flexible meal service (created by renowned chef Peter Gordon and matched with top-shelf New Zealand wines), you wont want to disembark!
In Premium Economy, you can stretch out and lay back in your generously ample leather seat and pop your feet up on the reclining footrest in something of a 'Business-lite' setting. The Economy cabin will feature 14 rows of Air New Zealand's own Kiwi-designed Skycouch seats, which can be converted into a makeshift sofa, meaning every passenger can enjoy new heights of comfort.
When will the 787-9 Dreamliner take flight?
The next generation jet has already taken to the skies, arriving in Auckland from Boeing's Everett factory near Seattle last month. Before its official launch date, you might be lucky enough to spy the 'all black' aircraft making some Trans-Tasman journeys between July and September, according to Air NZ's Chief Flight Operations Officer, Captain David Morgan.
The Dreamliner will be slowly and seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Air New Zealand fleet, making plenty of journeys before its grand debut in mid-October to ensure the crew are familiar with this beautiful new piece of aviation history. As Captain Morgan told Australian Business Traveller, “We’re certainly not going to have it sitting around on the ground after the delivery!”
The remaining nine Dreamliners will be dressed in white and black, with two more aircraft set to be welcomed into New Zealand in late 2014. The trio of 787-9s will take on the popular Air New Zealand routes between Auckland–Perth, Auckland–Shangahi, Auckland–Tokyo and Tokyo–Christchurch.
The Dreamliner family won't be complete until 2016, or possibly 2018 at the latest. It may seem a while away yet, but – to borrow an old cliche – good things come to those who wait.
The fast facts:
Seating: 280 passengers
Range: 15,200 kilometres
Cruise speed: Mach 0.85
First assembly: May, 2013
Commercial debut: October 15, 2014