Air New Zealand confirmed during its end-of-year results that it will be simplifying its fleet over the coming years. By the end of 2028, the airline will operate just two aircraft types in its main fleet: Boeing 787s and Airbus A320s. Its turboprop fleet will stay the same.
Currently, Air New Zealand’s entire fleet remains almost wholly grounded, and the country’s borders remain closed. The country is in lockdown over a fresh COVID-19 outbreak which means even the airline’s domestic operations are lagging. But when things reopen, the airline has plans.
Replacing the Boeing 777s
The airline previously announced it would ground its existing Boeing 777s for the remainder of the pandemic. In 2020, the airline retired its 777-200ERs and has now signaled that the entire type will retire over the coming years. The 777s will be replaced by more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Two more Dreamliners will join the fleet from 2024 as the airline’s remaining seven 777-300ERs are phased out, while the existing 787s are set to get a cabin refresh.
The 777-300ERs are still reasonably young, with an average age of under ten years. But despite this, the airline hopes to streamline operations. The first 777-300ER is due to leave the fleet soon and return to its lessor. The remaining six will stay until 2025 when they will gradually be phased out. In a statement, Chief Financial Officer Richard Thomson confirmed,
“We are now set to have an all 787 fleet for our long-haul business by 2027.”
The rest of the fleet
The plan for the rest of the fleet remains relatively straightforward. The airline currently operates a fleet of 31 Airbus A320 family aircraft including four A320neos, seven A321neos, and 20 A320s. As more neos join the fleet over the coming years, the airline will slowly remove the older A320s.
According to ch-aviation.com, seven A321neos and two additional A320neos will join the fleet over the coming years. By 2025, the airline will have just 13 A320s.
Air New Zealand’s turboprop fleet will remain the same. Currently, it has 28 ATR72-600. The airline will take delivery of one more next year. The 23 Bombardier Q300s will stay with the fleet for the foreseeable future.
Simplification vs cuts
Due to the pandemic, some airlines have decided to retire older aircraft without immediately replacing them. As demand remains low worldwide, airlines can save money by having smaller fleets and retrieving old, inefficient aircraft.
But Air New Zealand’s fleet will actually grow over the coming years, although only by one aircraft. However, by simplifying the types of aircraft to just the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A320 family, the airline can still make significant savings.
Firstly, the fuel-efficient Dreamliners will help with significant savings. Thompson said, “
Not only do these aircraft represent the best in currently available technology, but they’ll also bring about significant simplicity benefits in all areas of our operations, crewing, engineering and maintenance and flight operations, to name a few.”
Other benefits of a streamlined fleet include lower spare parts costs. Airlines can bulk buy parts for just one or two types at a lower price. Furthermore, pilots don’t need additional training on other aircraft and engineers only need to know how to service a few types. In addition, crew and pilots can be easily rotated as required.
The result is an efficient operation with little waste, and the airline can save money. So, although Air New Zealand isn’t shrinking its fleet, its fleet plans over the current year certainly reflect the problematic financial situation.
What do you think of the airline’s fleet plan? Let us know in the comments.