Air New Zealand has revealed it will be adding a new cabin class that will essentially fill a niche between standard economy and premium economy products.

The product, known as “economy stretch,” will be introduced on the carrier’s widebody fleet next year. It will be offered on up to 42 seats depending on aircraft type. Economy stretch will be based on the same economy seat, but will have greater pitch and improved amenities such as pillows and headsets used in premium classes.

The carrier will install the product on its Boeing 777-200ERs, -300ERs and 787-9s. It will be available from early 2020, and will be on all long-haul flights by late 2020. Economy stretch is a “comfort-led enhancement” to the standard economy product, offering “a step-up at a competitive price,” the airline said.

Economy stretch seats will have 35-in. seat pitch, compared to at least 31in. for standard economy and 41in. for premium economy. An airline spokeswoman told ATW there will be no change to the overall seat count or the split between economy, premium economy and business class. Economy stretch is still included under the economy seat count.

To accommodate the greater seat pitch for economy stretch, the pitch of some other seats in the forward half of the economy cabin is being “adjusted as we fit the new product,” the spokeswoman said. However, she stressed that “the majority of economy seats, including the entire rear half of economy, is not changing.” The airline will retain the minimum economy seat pitch of 31in., which it said is “consistent with other long-haul carriers.”

Air New Zealand is poised to decide soon on a new business class seat that will be first introduced on the Boeing 787-10s it has ordered, said Cam Wallace, the airline’s chief revenue officer, during a CAPA–Center for Aviation conference in Auckland Oct. 16. Air New Zealand is “in the very final stages” of the seat selection process, Wallace said.

The carrier has eight of the -10s on firm order, although it has flexibility to take some as -9s instead. Air New Zealand already operates 13 -9s. The first of the -10 orders are scheduled for delivery in late 2022.

Adrian Schofield, adrian.schofield@informa.com