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Air New Zealand Express Class takes off

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 1 November 2002

A new era in New Zealand aviation begins today when Air
New Zealand launches its new Express Class on domestic services throughout
the country.

The new class, which offers significantly cheaper domestic airfares, is to be launched with an Auckland - Christchurch Boeing 767 service at 06.50.

Lowest fares for this flight range from $69 one way, compared to the previous lowest return fare level of $249.

New Zealanders have already embraced this new era of low cost travel with enthusiasm. Air New Zealand says demand for Express fares across all fare types has been very strong with most of the cheapest fares already sold out for November and December.

This is despite twice as many fares being made available for sale at the lowest prices.

In announcing the launch of Express class, Air New Zealand's Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ralph Norris, said the airline's strategy is to make it easier and cheaper to fly domestically.

"We responded to customer demand in delivering a range of fares that represent the most significant fare reduction programme yet undertaken by Air New Zealand across its domestic services," said Mr Norris.

To mark the event, Mr Norris will host the 07.30 flight from Auckland to Wellington to be met by the capital's Mayor, Kerry Prendergast, who will welcome the new service. More than 20 senior Air New Zealand executives will also be on board domestic services to all parts of the country this morning explaining the 'Express' concept to customers.

Responding to Customer Demand

Average fares across the airline's domestic network have decreased by 20 percent, and by about 28 percent on main trunk routes. Some fares have come down as much as 50 - 60%.

"Our aim is to encourage people to fly, with fares that are strongly competitive with rail and car travel. Our customers told us cheaper fares were their priority - they also told us they were willing to trade off business class and full meal service in return for such dramatic price reductions," he said.

"And customers have certainly rewarded us with increased business - load factors for 'Express' are already stronger across the domestic network."

From today, business class seating has been removed from Air New Zealand's Boeing 737-300s. This means 'Express' class will increase the number of seats available on the Air New Zealand's domestic network by 12%.

In-flight meals and alcoholic beverage offerings will also be replaced by a new in-flight snack service, with tea or coffee in a give-away mug and a cookie snack.

Travellers have also responded enthusiastically to the new and easy web booking facility. Air New Zealand has experienced a major shift in the way people book their fares with almost 40 % of all Express bookings now being made on-line.

This represents an eight-fold increase in the volume of Air New Zealand on-line bookings in three months.

The percentage of web bookings, as expected, has been trending down from the highs of previous weeks as business travellers, who tend to book closer to the time of departure, book through their usual travel agents or Air New Zealand Business Direct.

Benefits to Business

Mr Norris said the New Zealand business community has already responded positively to the Express changes.

"In fact, corporates and smaller businesses have shown they are as keen as any of our customers to benefit from the significant savings offered by 'Express'."

Air New Zealand calculates that the country's largest five hundred companies stand to save a combined $40 million in airfares annually. In addition the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector is expected to save 26 percent on average annually.

In addition, business travellers will also be able to enjoy the more spacious, newly refurbished Koru lounge in Auckland, which can cater for an additional 80 members and is specifically designed for their needs.

Engineering Challenge

A major engineering programme began 10 days ago to prepare the Boeing 737-300 fleet for Express, with overnight turnarounds on each of the ten domestic aircraft. Business class seats were removed, the dividing partitions taken out, the new seating configuration installed and new carpet laid to create Express Class.

More than 5000 work-hours has gone into the engineering effort.

"Right across Air New Zealand operations, people have pulled out all stops to make this new era happen. We've successfully reshaped our domestic operations, and over the next 18 months we will turn our attention to the airline's short and long-haul international operations," said Mr Norris.

Technology Enhancements

Today's launch also marked the introduction of two new technology developments - the ExpressCheck self-service kiosk, and TextExpress messaging service.

ExpressCheck is an ATM-style automated check-in kiosk for passengers, and TextExpress offers passengers information on flight delays, by way of their  mobile telephones.

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