Air New Zealand says the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will use 20 per cent less fuel than similar-sized aircraft, meaning the plane will produce fewer carbon emissions.
Airline chief executive Christopher Luxon says Air New Zealand will be the first airline in the world to fly the 63-metre craft internationally.
And it will also provide a more comfortable experience for customers, he said.
“At the end of the day, Air New Zealand flies people, not planes,” Mr Luxon said.
With fuel costing as much as 40 per cent of the price of an international flight, saving on fuel is a huge draw, Mr Luxon said.
“It certainly enables us to keep a downward pressure on airfares.”
Passengers will have a better flight thanks to the higher pressure and humidity in the cabin, says testing pilot Chuck Killberg, who will be flying the 250- to 290-seater Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Brisbane to Alice Springs.
“If I didn’t tell you why, you’d just say `Well, that was a really good flight’.”
The new model has been a long time coming – the plane was meant to be part of Air New Zealand’s fleet three and a half years ago – but Mr Luxon is focusing on the future.
“We believe this aircraft is really a big game changer.
“We want Air NZ to remain on the future of flight.”
But there are a few more hoops for the plane to jump through before it’s commercially ready.
The plane will be tested to see how it responds to extreme heat in Alice Springs.
Next, the team of around 10 aircraft testers will fly it to Hawaii to test whether it meets Europe’s strict noise restrictions, before carrying out some more tests.
The operations manager for the craft, Ryan Smith, says testing will likely finish around mid-year and after that, the craft will be skinned and fitted out with Air New Zealand livery.
Those keen to fly in the new aircraft when it’s available mid-way through the year will need to be heading to medium-haul growth markets – Perth, Shanghai and Tokyo are the first priorities, Mr Luxon said.
Air New Zealand is planning to introduce 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners during the next three years.
It has said it is spending $NZ1.8 billion ($A1.67 billion) on new aircraft, including on Dreamliners.