Air New Zealand Drops Their Innovative Premium Economy Product

Premium economy is the hottest new airline offering of the past decade, as globally we’ve seen many airlines eliminating international first class and installing premium economy in its place. Perhaps that’s simply a reflection of how much hard products have improved, since in many cases business class is like what first class used to be, and premium economy is almost as nice as business class used to be (many years ago).

For most airlines, premium economy is very similar to what you’d find in domestic first class on a US airline. Air New Zealand perhaps has one of the most original premium economy products in the world on their 777-300ER aircraft, called the Spaceseat.

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Air New Zealand’s 777-300 premium economy product

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Air New Zealand’s 777-300 premium economy product

Here’s a video about the seat:

While the seat looks awesome as far as premium economy products go, it also strikes me as extremely inefficient, especially in comparison to the other premium economy products out there.

The problem was that when they originally introduced their new premium economy seat, people found the seats to be highly restrictive due to the lack of legroom. As a result, in 2011 Air New Zealand took out a row of premium economy seats on their 777s, adding up to six inches of legroom to each seat. As you can probably tell based on the 777-300ER seatmap, the current configuration is extremely inefficient.

As a result, Air New Zealand is discontinuing their current 777-300 premium economy Spaceseat, and will instead be replacing it with the same premium economy product they have on their refurbished 777-200 and select 787-9 aircraft.

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Air New Zealand’s new standardized premium economy product

The number of premium economy seats on the 777-300 will be increased from 44 to 54, and the change is expected to occur starting in February 2017. This product looks like a more traditional premium economy configuration, similar to what you’d find in domestic first class. The product will be going from a 2-2-2 configuration to a 2-4-2 configuration on the 777.

Furthermore, Air New Zealand’s newly delivered 787-9 aircraft will have a bigger premium footprint, including 27 business class seats (rather than 18), and 33 premium economy seats (rather than 21).

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Air New Zealand’s business class product

Per Business Traveller, here’s what Air New Zealand’s general manager of customer experience had to say about the elimination of the Spaceseat:

“When we unveiled the Spaceseat in 2010, it was revolutionary and clearly the best option in the market at the time, as a string of international awards has proven.

“However, seating technology and materials have come a long way since then and our customer research now shows consistently higher satisfaction scores for our newest Premium Economy offering so it’s time to continue Air New Zealand’s evolution in this space.”

“With these changes, we look forward to being able to offer our customers a consistent Premium Economy product across our long-haul fleet and being able to welcome even more customers into our premium cabins with the expanded premium footprint on our Dreamliners.”

Bottom line

It’s unfortunate that in this case Air New Zealand’s premium economy innovation didn’t pay off, though I guess the product was just too inefficient. It was perhaps a great idea when it was introduced, but by the time they had to remove a row, they were at a significant disadvantage, and just couldn’t make the numbers work.

Have you flown Air New Zealand’s Spaceseat? Are you sad to see it go?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I flew in one marketed as Economy on their BNE-AKL service. Since they didn’t have premium economy on Trans-Tasman services, if you booked the BNE-AKL leg of the BNE-AKL-LAX 777 flight, they marketed these seats as regular economy, and for a while you could select them for no extra charge (I believe this has since been done away with).

    It was a fun experience, the first time I had flown in a “premium” seat. The odd angle of the seat pairs provided a lot of privacy, but made it difficult if you had a companion you wanted to talk to, as the “shell” made it difficult to see your partner.

  2. Lucky – I know you would probably scoff at this but you should try to review it before it gets pulled from service. It is so unique for premium economy that I doubt it will be replicated in the near future; hence why I think it would be great if you could review it and memorialize it.

  3. I love Air New Zealand! Willing to try something new and willing to admit it when it doesnt work out.

  4. I’ve been tempted to buy premium economy seats on Air Canada for international vacations, but the sale prices on real business class can sometimes actually be cheaper, or at least close to, premium economy.

  5. I have flown in the space seats and loved them. Loved. I am someone that needs to prop their head into a spot to sleep as I can’t do the bobble so many others do. I flew AKL-LAX in April in the space seat and was able to get some really great sleep. They give you a small bean bag for your feet, which when I put it on top of my backpack, it was a great foot rest. I had two pillows they provided, one I did for lumbar, the other head and was able to get into a great position to sleep.

    I did have a really tall client (about 6’6″) that flew one way in the space seat and one way in the non-space seat and he preferred the non as he was a bit restricted in the space seat. His tiny wife liked the space seat though, so I can see how tall people will applaud the change.

  6. When I had a Spaceseat a couple of years ago from AKL to LAX I was shocked by the poor legroom.

    I flew Premium Economy on the 777-200 last month from TBU to AKL and was very happy with it. Admittedly it’s a much shorter flight, but I think it’s both a more economical configuration for both airline and passenger.

  7. I love the Space Seat as a Premium Econ product. I’ll definitely miss it but I thought something was up when the 789’s got a more conventional Premium Econ seat.

  8. The Space Seat is a love it or hate it product. I didn’t mind it when I flew it, but have recently tried the new Premium Economy product which is just fantastic and much better than the Space Seat.

    Also it was bound to happen. PE in a 2-2-2 layout? That can’t be profitable (even at NZs high prices) seeing as the layout is the same as a lot of other airlines Business class seating…

  9. It was a novel product but its days were numbered from the beginning. Oh well, at least it had a good five-year run.

  10. While they looked good, these seats were VERY uncomfortable. So glad that they are changing them. I would go as far as saying that I preferred being packed in economy rather than sitting in these for long haul flights.

  11. The space seats also weighed a LOT, resulting in more fuel burn. Another reason to get rid of them.

  12. This is a big mistake in my view…The space seats are excellent, comfortable and it is almost as good as business class. With the new 2-4-2 configuration they are talking about, the premium economy is nothing but a glorified economy.

  13. So sad! Completely disagree with those who question the comfort and color of the spaceseat….I just flew Auckland to Melbourne in one of these and it was extremely comfortable and WELL worth the money. The white color is soothing, too. The food was also top notch in Premium Economy. Glad I got the experience but really upset they are changing the seat. And the 2-2 seat combo meant not too many others using the toilets. I think ANZ is making a mistake.

  14. Flown three time to San Francisco from Melbourne return purely for the space seat. If they change something surely they should notify customer. Get onto San Francisco long flight no space seat, same seat number but now the the usual cattle class, seats leaning back on you. Staff flat out due to increased people. Toilet queues.
    We booked space seats should have got them , no choice now, their premium economy space seats started with such big publicity, it has put them below the other airlines. Customer service when complaining is zilch. Bulldog

  15. @Disppointed Air NZ traveller says: “…With the new 2-4-2 configuration they are talking about, the premium economy is nothing but a glorified economy…”

    That didn’t make sense. Premium or glorified, what’s the difference? It still has the word ECONOMY in the description.

  16. I fly between New Zealand and the US several times a year. And every time I could afford it (or had a bump-up available) I looked forward to traveling in an Air New Zealand premium economy space seat. A real plus was the fact that 3 out of 4 space seats were aisle seats; especially convenient for long-haul flights. And it was great not having to worry about infringing on someone-else’s space during a recline (as the recline was self-contained within the individual ‘egg.’) I will definitely miss the space and privacy of the space seat!

  17. Recently travelled, Nov 2016, in premium economy spaceseat. It was fabulous , we booked centre seats which were heaps roomier than the window/aisle seats, and with only 2 in centre we had easy access to leave our seats without disturbing other passengers. Sad that we may not be able to book these again. We hadn’t flown Air New Zealand for many many years, preferring to use Emirates Business Class, which was a good comparison, but now looks like we may have to return to Emirates. Shame Air New Zealand had the upper edge for such a short time.

  18. I am an Airpoints Gold member who flies regularly in premium economy from New Zealand to the US several times a year. I have specifically booked seats on Air New Zealand because of the comfort and value of the ‘egg seats.’ Now that these seats will no longer be available, I will actively look for seats on other airlines.

  19. I loved spaceseat and am upset to see them go. to tall persons (I am one) who complained, do your homework and you’ll find that the bulkhead seats – ESPECIALLY 23B – have ridiculous legroom, and the absence of a footrest is trivially overcome with a carry-on plus the beanbag as one other reviewer pointed out. the shape of the spaceseat provides unlimited ways to ‘get comfortable’ as opposed to the standard seat, and when you combine that with ample legroom, even a fidgety guy like me can get relaxed on an 11/12-hour LAXLHR flight. the privacy and easy aisle access is great, too, in a dark cabin on a long haul. finally, spaceseat has little storage nooks where you can park your headphones or laptop without getting out of your seat or jamming them in a seatback pocket where you’re not sure they’ll stay or maybe get clunked in the shins with them if the guy in front reclines.

  20. This is bad news. My partner and I have used the SpaceSeat Premium Economy between London and Auckland repeatedly since their introduction, and loved it. My partner is 5 feet tall, I am 6 feet, but we both managed fine, and enjoyed the extra privacy of the paired aisle/window seats, the ‘egg’ capsule allowing seat recline without affecting anyone else, the nooks for stowing things during flights – so much to love about the design and layout. We were planning a trip to NZ again for December 2017, and considering Air New Zealand again (our favourite airline), but scrapping the space seats may influence us to look at other airlines. Air New Zealand led the way in Premium Economy innovation, but this seems like going back to join the pack, not finding new ways to lead.

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