Air New Zealand’s widebody fleet will comprise only Boeing 787 aircraft from 2027 because the 777 will be phased out entirely, the carrier has announced. 

The New Zealand flag carrier said the Boeing 787 Dreamliners due to enter the fleet from its 2024 financial year will now replace its 777-300 fleet. Air New Zealand had initially planned for the 787 to replace the 777-200 fleet only. 

Its eight 777-200s were permanently retired in 2020. “With that fleet permanently grounded and impaired in 2020, the wide body fleet has reduced from 29 to 21 aircraft,” chief financial officer Richard Thompson told analysts after the carrier reported annual results on August 26, 2021. 

“The 787s that will enter the fleet from the 2024 financial year will now replace the 777-300 fleet which is expected to be phased out within this decade,” Thompson added. A presentation slide showed the airline as planning to have 20 787 aircraft in its widebody fleet from 2027. 

The announcement came after Air New Zealand published financial results for the 12 months to June 30, 2021. 

It reported a loss before taxation and significant items of NZ$440 million ($306 million), compared to a loss of NZ$87 million ($60 million) for the previous year, which was only partly affected by COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, Air New Zealand had enjoyed 16 consecutive years of profit.

Operating revenue dropped 48% to $2.5 billion ($1.7 billion). Passenger revenue of NZ1.5 billion ($1 billion) represented just 30% of pre-COVID levels, Air New Zealand said. Domestic flying recovered to 93% of pre-crisis levels, although a new lockdown in New Zealand is expected to have a further negative impact on results this year. It is not providing earnings guidance for the current year.

Due to the pandemic, the airline has deferred some aircraft deliveries, with one 787 delivery slipping from 2023 to 2024 and another from 2024 to 2026. 

This financial year will see it take delivery of two A320neos and one ATR600 in October and then another A320neo in June. 

“If we're bringing aircraft into the fleet over the course of the next 12 months, the ATR and the neo are just the aircraft we're after,” Thompson said, citing the good domestic demand seen before the latest lockdown.

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