Air NZ's 787-9 has landed at Auckland Airport
Air New Zealand's new Dreamliner touched down at Auckland International Airport this afternoon, launching a new era for the national carrier.
Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton said the Boeing 787-9's increased passenger capacity and more efficient fuel consumption would mean cheaper fares for passengers.
Air New Zealand is the first airline to fly the larger version of Boeing's more fuel-efficient new-generation long-range jet.
The aircraft, in its black and silver livery, sporting the koru and silver fern, landed at 4.25pm at the end of a flight direct from the Seattle factory, with about 50 VIPs, staff and media on board.
It was welcomed by a rousing rendition of the Ka Mate haka performed by about 20 Air New Zealand staff.
At Auckland International Airports lookout point plane spotters Nathan Black,18, and James Foley, 17, said they had been waiting a long time for this moment.
"It's the biggest thing that's happened in my life," Foley said.
"We both want to be pilots for Air New Zealand."
Black said he used to live in Seattle where the plane was made and could not sleep last night in anticipation.
He described the plane's arrival as "10 out of 10" on the excitement meter.
"It's the newest plane out there and we get it first," Black said.
Air New Zealand has ordered a fleet of 10 of the 787-9s that have a list price of nearly US$250 million (NZ$284m) each.
The Dreamliner is the first airliner with a fuselage made of lightweight carbon composite.
Like the 787-8s flown by Jetstar, the Air New Zealand plane will feature larger windows, more-spacious cabin bins, higher cabin air pressure and higher cabin humidity.
Its engines are about 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than the previous generation of airliners and are also quieter.
Air New Zealand has packed a total of 302 seats into the plane including including 263 economy seats (with 14 Skycoach rows), 21 premium economy seats and 18 business class seats.
Boeing markets the plane with 280 seats, but the higher seating density on board Air New Zealand's aircraft reflects the dominance of leisure travellers on the airline's international network.
Air New Zealand had expected the first Dreamliner to arrive in 2010, but Boeing's 787 programme has been plagued by lengthy delays.
The new aircraft will debut on the Auckland to Perth route from October 15 but Air New Zealand chief financial officer Rob McDonald said plenty of proving flights between New Zealand and Australia's east coast were planned before then.
From November it will fly the Shanghai and Tokyo routes and become the sole aircraft type on the underperforming Shanghai route by 2016.
Stephen Jones, Air New Zealand's head of strategy, networks and alliances, described the jet as "an aircraft perfect for Asia".
The 787-9 was central to the airline's "go beyond" strategy that focuses on building an international network through airline partnerships around the Pacific Rim, he said.
Another of the Air New Zealand 787-9s will be a star attraction at the Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire, England next week.
The twin-engine jet, measuring 63 metres long and with a 60m wingspan, will be on static and flying display at the biennial airshow from July 14 until July 18.