Air New Zealand Cuts Business Seats from Some Flights

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PhillipC, flickr

Business travelers flying between New Zealand and Australia may find themselves sitting coach on their next flight across the Tasman Sea. Air New Zealand has decided to remove business-class seats from its fleet of Airbus A320 Tasman Pacific airplanes that fly between the islands and Australia.

The move follows a rising trend by South Pacific airlines to eliminate premium-cabin seats in the face of the global economic downturn.

Air New Zealand has the largest share of the trans-Tasman market, with 280 flights per week and 2.1 million costumers annually making the trip. The single-class reconfiguration of the airplanes will increase capacity by an extra 19 seats for a maximum 171 seats on Air New Zealand flights across the Tasman Sea. Air New Zealand says this will allow them to reduce fares on these trans-Tasman flights and maintain its competitive edge over the eight airlines that operate the route.

The change comes at a time when Air New Zealand is seeing a significant drop in business-class travelers on flights between New Zealand and Australia, with only one in eight business-class seats being sold per flight to Australian destinations from Christchurch and Wellington. The loss in business-class customers has been interpreted as a reluctance of corporate travelers to pay for first-class seating on what is largely considered a "domestic" three-hour flight across the Tasman Sea. First-class seats will still be available on flights between Auckland and Australian destinations for business travelers with long-haul connections.

Air New Zealand isn't the only South Pacific airline slashing its business-class seats in the face of dwindling demand. Qantas announced last month that the airline would remove first-class cabins from most of its long-haul fleet, leaving only premium seats on its flights between Australia and London via Singapore, and between Australia and Los Angeles.
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