Another set of nails have been driven into the coffin of class distinctions and curtain partitioned cabins in short haul air travel.
Air New Zealand has given the freebie chasers, the class conscious, and its competitors, a bit of a kicking with its plans for single cabin services across the Tasman later this year.
But is it the new reality of short haul flight?
Is it another case of the Kiwi’s being faster and sharper than their Australian competitors and getting in first with changes that are not not only inevitable but likely to be welcomed by most travellers?
Or is it just an inducement for those who cling to the indulgences of the past to flee, apparently in ones or twos, to the comforts offered by Emirates, Qantas and Pacific Blue’s intended adoption of a revised premium economy product? A very interesting question indeed.
This is the summary of what Air NZ plans to offer in a 171 seat single cabin A320, a type which it uses to Wellington, and for most Christchurch services, as well as for some to Auckland.
Air NZ says it will also offer a Kids Works package, with luck, with a special cone of silence for those children that should neither be seen nor heard in airliners. The new range of options go on sale from late April, and there is no news yet about pricing.
The Kiwi’s have definitely stolen a march with this. Virgin Blue has been talking up its product revamp, and this sounds like something similar, even though the Virgin product will include a different set of seats for premium economy, and the obvious intention of the NZ carrier is to instead offer as its premium alternative a half empty ‘no neighbour’ seat in the middle between each two ‘Works Deluxe’ seats.
The killer figure in this move is the revelation by Air New Zealand’s group general manager short haul, Bruce Parton, that only one of the eight business class seats it currently offers trans Tasman on its A320s is actually purchased.
Parton says, ” This is predominantly due to companies and government departments …cutting back on spending and adopting a policy of economy class travel, which underpins the rationale for standardising the A320 fleet in one-class configuration.
“Business class will still be available out of Auckland on widebody aircraft flights at prime times that meet the needs of corporate travellers and those Business Premier customers connecting with our long-haul services.”
Which is a reminder of a well worn axiom in airline circles, to “use it or lose it.”
On short haul flights, if Air NZ is right, premium anything has ‘lost it.’