Air New Zealand Cuts Business Seats from Some Flights
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.