from NZ Dominion:
Air NZ fits flash features for Virgin 747s
04 June 2001
By DAVID McLOUGHLIN
Three new Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 jets are at Air New Zealand's engineering base at Auckland airport being fitted with flash features including a room where "upper class" passengers can have a massage and manicure while flying between Britain and the United States.
Air New Zealand won a contract to fit out five new Virgin Atlantic 747-400s after the London-based airline was impressed by the work it did last year refitting five former Air New Zealand 747-200s it sold to Virgin.
The present contract was meant to be done one plane at a time, so it was striking to see three of the jets lined up side by side. The first plane was finished in April.
Virgin Atlantic, whose founder Richard Branson is behind cut-price airline Virgin Blue in Australia, snapped up the five jets at Boeing's Seattle assembly line when another airline cancelled its order.
But the planes were delivered with the seating and other features required by the original orderer, believed to be Italy's Alitalia, so Virgin contracted Air New Zealand to refit them at the Auckland engineering base.
About 50 modifications are being made to each plane, including new seats, the latest hi-tech inflight entertainment systems, and the massage room, which is being installed in an area normally used for a galley.
A worker at the engineering base said one of the jets would fly non-stop to London, the first time such a non-stop flight had been made, but Air New Zealand was unable to confirm this immediately.
When Qantas took delivery of its first 747-400, called Longreach, the plane flew non-stop from London to Sydney, a record long-distance flight made possible only because it carried no passengers or cargo.
With passengers and cargo, a 747-400 can travel 13,570 kilometres, enabling it to get to London from Auckland with only one stop.