Air NZ doubles fleet to get more bums on seats

The new additions to the Air New Zealand fleet will add more seats to the market and hopefully boost tourism in Nelson and Tasman, says the general manager of Air Nelson.

The ATR72-600 made a stop at Nelson yesterday morning as it flew around the country showing off its "all black" livery.

Grant Kerr, general manager of Air Nelson, an Air New Zealand Link operator, said the new fleet would hopefully stimulate travel and get more people on planes.

The aircraft, which is black with a large white fern on the side, will be operated by Mount Cook Airlines, an AirNZ Link operator. The rest of the fleet will have white fuselages and black tails.

It was flown into New Zealand from Toulouse, France, a week ago.

Mount Cook Airlines general manager Sarah Williamson said it was exciting to have the new plane.

"We're really excited, it's fantastic to have new aircraft, Mount Cook hasn't had new aircraft in about eight years," she said.

For the regions in New Zealand this was a huge move, because it would put more seats on the market, she said.

Ms Williamson said they received a "significant number" of complaints about the seats from customers, but the new planes should make a difference.

The ATR72-600 seats 68 passengers, 18 more than the current planes, and has slim-line leather seats, which allow more room for legs and knees and have a reclining feature.

The pilots, too, were excited about the new planes, which had new technology.

"The pilots are looking forward to having a new toy to play with," Ms Williamson said.

Captain Graeme Palmer said there had been a bit of a discussion about who would get to fly today, but the boss had won in the end.

The most obvious difference in the cockpit was that the control panels had gone electronic. This meant all their checklists and the like would now be computerised.

Air New Zealand is buying seven new-generation ATR72-600 aircraft with purchase options for a further five, worth a total of US$270 million (NZ$340m). It will double its current ATR fleet and add a further 2 million seats to the New Zealand regional market annually.

The second plane is due to arrive in New Zealand on December 20, Ms Williamson said.

The Nelson Mail