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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALANDAir New Zealand has revealed plans about retiring its largest long-haul jet, the Boeing 777. The carrier last week reported an after-tax loss of $289 million for the year to June 30, reflecting its first full year result flying in a Covid-19 environment.



ANZ grounded its 777 fleet during the pandemic, moving many of the aircraft to aircraft storage in the United States. In May, the first footage of the airline's planes in the desert emerged, surrounded by hundreds of other aircraft.

In a briefing to investors, Air New Zealand confirmed its 777-200ER would never fly for the airline again, saying these were in a state of “permanent retirement”. This move was widely expected.

The briefing also revealed the larger 777-300ER will also be phased out by 2027 and would be replaced by 787 Dreamliners, which are more fuel-efficient. The airline currently has 14 Dreamliners, with a further eight on order, which are to be delivered from 2024.

The new Dreamliners were intended to replace the smaller 777-200s but Covid has dealt a massive blow to long-haul operations, meaning the airline is downsizing.

Air New Zealand has eight 777-200ERs and seven 777-300ERs.

The retirement of all 777s by 2027 means the national carrier will soon have a significantly simplified fleet. In 2011, it flew eight aircraft types, including the 747, 767, 777, 737 and A320. By 2028, that would be down to four different types of aircraft: 787, A320 (and A321) alongside the regional ATR72 and Q300.

Having fewer types of aircraft saves the airline money by streamlining training and maintenance. The airline has also indicated it is looking to add electric, hybrid and/or hydrogen aircraft for domestic use – which could see it introduce new types.

The 777-300ER is the largest of the airline's long-haul jets, seating 342 people. It was the first to introduce the revolutionary SkyCouch, which joined three economy seats together to form a bed. It also flew the flagship Auckland to London route for many years, before it was suspended.

Some of the 777-300ER planes are still at Auckland Airport and can be seen on a disused taxiway when flying domestically. Their engines are covered, alongside flight deck windows and landing gear.

The rest are at storage facilities overseas, some of which are having problems with snakes. Qantas engineers looking after the airline's grounded Airbus A380s found rattlesnakes making homes in the landing gear of the parked planes in the Mojave Desert – the same location as some of Air New Zealand’s planes.
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