Air New Zealand Looking At Retiring Boeing 777-300ERs From 2023

Air New Zealand has flagged the possibility it will start retiring its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in the 2024 New Zealand financial year. The kiwi airline has indicated it will decide on this within the next 12 months. The oldest Boeing 777-300ER at Air New Zealand is just over 10 years. In addition to talk of retirements, one leased 777-300ER is not expected to be returned to service.

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Air New Zealand has suggested it may start retiring its Boeing 777-300ER fleet in 2024. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand has “the option” to start retiring its 777-300ERs

Air New Zealand has a fleet of seven Boeing 777-300ERs. The first, ZK-OKM, arrived in late 2010. The most recent, ZK-OKS, arrived in the latter half of 2014. Normally, Air New Zealand uses the widebody planes to operate its long-haul flights.

The big Boeings were common sights at airports like Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Heathrow. But Air New Zealand parked its Boeing 777-300ERs last year amid the travel downturn, preferring to send its 787 Dreamliners out to operate its slimmed-down flight schedules.

“We have both short-term and long-term levers we can pull with regards to our fleet,” said Air New Zealand’s Jeff McDowall at an investor’s briefing last week. “In the short-term, we have the option to exit a portion of our 777-300 fleet.

“We do not have to make these decisions for another six to nine months.”

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Air New Zealand’s fleet of 777s is now parked. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

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The Boeing 777-300ER not the right plane for the current operating environment?

Air New Zealand’s long-haul international fleet is split evenly between Boeing 777s and 787s. Not all the Boeing 777s are 777-300ERs. Around half are 777-200ERs. They too are parked and not expected to be returned to service.

Both the Air New Zealand 777-200ER and 777-300ER are bigger planes than the Dreamliner. The Air New Zealand 777-200ER seats 312 passengers, and the 777-300ER seats 342 passengers. Depending on the configuration, Air New Zealand’s 787-9 Dreamliners seat between 275 and 302 passengers.

“There is no roadmap for how the international market will recover,” said Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran at the investor’s briefing. The Air New Zealand executive team was reluctant to put a timeline on when international travel will resume. Rather, they focused on operational agility and efficiencies.

Some commentators believe the demand for international travel will rebound swiftly on the back of widespread vaccination programs. Others are not so optimistic.

“Optimism that the arrival and initial distribution of vaccines would lead to a prompt and orderly restoration in global air travel have been dashed in the face of new outbreaks and new mutations of the disease,” said IATA in February.

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The executives were reluctant to pin a date on the recovery. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

The Boeing 777 bested by the Dreamliner at Air New Zealand

The common view is that long-haul travel will take some time to bounce back, with prospective passengers preferring to chance it with short-haul travel initially. It’s going to be easier to fill a smaller long-haul aircraft than a bigger one. That’s one reason why Air New Zealand is running its Dreamliners now and not its Boeing 777s.

The other thing to take into account is the Dreamliners’ operational efficiencies. They are cheaper planes to operate than a Boeing 777. Like most airlines these days, every dollar counts, so that’s an important consideration at Air New Zealand.

What’s the takeout? The long-haul future at Air New Zealand is centered on the Dreamliners, not the Boeing 777s. By 2024, Air New Zealand anticipates being down to just five Boeing 777s. By the end of the decade, they will most likely be gone.

Are you a fan of the Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER? Sorry to see it go? Post a comment and let us know.

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