Air New Zealand announces Seoul service, free Wi-Fi, other major changes

Air New Zealand is launching a direct service to Korea and now offers complimentary onboard Wi-Fi on all international flights where it's available.

A better business class product and more spacious economy cabin are some of the other major changes the airline announced on Thursday morning.

The new direct service to Seoul will begin in November, and additional flights are also being added to Taipei and Chicago.

Air NZ is also deferring delivery of two long-haul aircraft as part of its Boeing 777-200 fleet replacement programme.  

It's unknown if the airline will choose a newer and longer version of the Dreamliner, the Boeing 777X, or the new Airbus A350; but a shift to Airbus for its long-haul fleet is unexpected.

Air NZ said a completely new business class product, as well as a more spacious economy cabin, are also in the works.

"We have undertaken considerable customer research and testing over the past 12 months to come up with enhancements to the existing business class seat," chief executive Christopher Luxon said.

The airline says Thursday's announcements are designed to improve its financial performance and customer experience over the next two years.

Air NZ undertook a company-wide review after it issued a revised profit guidance for the 2019 financial year due to an increase in expenses and a drop in tourism numbers.

Luxon also hinted at further 'exciting' announcements in the coming months.

Key points from this morning's announcement: 

  • The launch of new direct services between Auckland and Seoul from late November 2019.
  • Increased frequency on Auckland-Taipei services from November 2019 and Auckland-Chicago services from December 2019.
  • Amending the timing of the Auckland-Hong Kong service to free up one aircraft from late October 2019.
  • Deferring by one year the delivery of three A321NEO aircraft planned to operate on the domestic network.
  • Deferring by two years the delivery of one A320NEO aircraft designated for trans-Tasman services.
  • Deferring by at least four years the delivery of two long-haul aircraft as part of a widebody fleet programme to replace the airline's B777-200 fleet
  • The progressive introduction of an enhanced Business Premier experience on the long-haul fleet from the end of calendar 2019.
  • A new, more spacious, economy service on the long-haul fleet from mid-2020.
  • The upgrade of nine lounges across the network over the next two years for approximately $50 million, as part of the airline's previously disclosed lounge upgrade programme.

The free Wi-Fi service will only be available on aircraft with internet connectivity.