Air New Zealand commences countdown to A321neo service entry as first aircraft touches down in Auckland

6 November, 2018

In less than three weeks Air New Zealand will place its first Airbus A321neo into commercial operation as it begins to replace its older A320 versions currently operating Tasman and Pacific Island services. The airline plans to debut the new type on 23-Nov-2018 operating flight ‘NZ739’ from Auckland to Brisbane.


  • Air New Zealand has taken delivery of the first of 20 A320neo Family aircraft it will for use to replace older aircraft on domestic, Tasman and Pacific Island services;
  • The first aircraft, an A321neo, arrived in Auckland on 05-Nov-2018 and will enter service between Auckland and Brisbane on 23-Nov-2018;
  • The initial 13 aircraft (seven A321neos and six A320neos) will arrive through late 2019, while the last seven - for domestic routes - will follow between 2020 and 2024.

Air New Zealand formally took delivery of the first of 20 new Airbus neo aircraft (14 A321neos and six A320neos) it has committed to purchase, on 31-Oct-2018 and the aircraft departed on its long delivery journey from the Airbus Delivery Centre at Finkenwerder in Hamburg, Germany on the morning of 02-Nov-2018. That four-day journey has taken in stops in Muscat, Oman, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Cairns, Australia, arriving in Auckland shortly after 22:20pm on 05-Nov-2018.

A second A321neo is also expected to enter service in the coming weeks, while the majority of the first batch of 13 aircraft (seven A321neos and six A320neos) will follow at intervals through until late 2019, with the new fleet eventually replacing the airline’s A320s that currently operate Tasman and Pacific Island services. A further seven A321neos have also been ordered for the airline’s domestic network and are expected to be delivered between 2020 to 2024.

TABLE - The Airbus A320 has been the mainstay of the Air New Zealand short-haul fleet since the start of the 2000s and will now transition across the neo version of the aircraftSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation Fleet Database

According to the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database, Air New Zealand currently operates a fleet of 30 A320s, now known as the ceo - current engine option. These have an average age of less than ten years with the majority of aircraft delivered this decade, but it includes half a dozen aircraft that have flown with the carrier for between 12 and 14 years. The newer equipment, mainly used in domestic markets, is configured with 171 seats, while the 13 aircraft used on the international routes have 168 seats, according to CAPA.

The new A321neo has been acquired from Air Lease Corporation, who will be supplying the carrier with additional aircraft, and is configured in an all-Economy layout with 214 seats. The larger variant will be used on the heavier Trans-Tasman routes linking Auckland to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, while the smaller A320neos will likely be used on Australian routes from Christchurch and Wellington.

While it may appear to be a dense one-class arrangement on the A321neo, the seat are actually set with a different pitch and more generous legroom offered among the first rows in what is described as a Space+ product, available to premium members of Air New Zealand’s frequent flyer scheme for no charge, but at a cost to all other passengers. A Business Class like offering is also provided at the front of the cabin, as ‘Works Deluxe’ with the guarantee of a vacant middle seat in the traditional 3x3 arrangement on the A320 family.

In fact, the arrangement also provides some additional comfort for passengers ‘stuck’ in the middle seats. Even for a three to four hour Trans-Tasman flight, life in a middle seat could be a little uncomfortable. Air New Zealand says the B and E rows on the A321neo are 2cm wider than the window and aisle seats.

After its planned debut on the Auckland – Brisbane route from 23-Nov-2018, and as additional aircraft arrive A321neos will also be deployed in the Auckland – Gold Coast, Aukland – Melbourne and Auckland – Sydney markets in Nov-2018; Auckland – Apia and Auckland - Nuku’Alofa in Dec-2018 and Auckland – Nadi from Jan-2019.