So now we have an argument is for a fleet of about 5 A321 LRs with Premium Economy , say 200 seats to replace or supplement the 272 seat 787s for PER, PPT and HNL. The difference in seat count is modest, you loose freight capacity and fully premium seats, but it does open the possibility of direct CHC and WLG flights to PER.
I remain to be convinced that adding such a niche aircraft, three more destinations then the bog standard A321, is a better way of increasing capacity over adding more frames in the existing standard configurations and tolerating existing AkL transfers.
I've been doing some digging as to the capabilities of the A320 series, given the apparent need for a still-air range capability of 3,500 nm on the 2,888 nm AKL-PER run. Is the A321NEO up to the task, or not?
From the following link, in which payload-range capabiities of a number of aircraft are evaluated (numbers taken from Airbus and Boeing technical manuals), the answer is an emphatic NO
.https://epsilonaviation.wordpress.com/2 ... -airlines/
But, to my surprise, at any distance over 3,000 nm, the A320NEO's
performance beats the A321NEO hands down. Using a round 100 kg per passenger and baggage (latest EASA survey data avg pax weight 76.7 kg, carry-on avg 7.3 kg, hold baggage avg 16.0 kg, total 100.0 kg exactly) the A321NEO could carry just 55 pax (and no freight) on a leg requiring a capability of 3,500 nm, such as AKL-PER (2,888 nm great circle distance plus diversion to BQB and holding time). By contrast, the A320NEO could carry 133 pax, or 79% load factor westbound, and probably a full load eastbound. The star is the A319NEO, which could carry its full passenger load in both directions.
The very rare A319NEO is not in the NZ fleet, nor ever likely to be. But this data shows that while everyone is thinking of the A321NEO as the way of the future, the humble A320NEO has many advantages, not least a $20m price advantage (based on list price admittedly), slightly cheaper operating costs, lower crewing costs and much stronger capabilities at the limits of its range. Because of its size, it's also more suitable, as others have pointed out, for opening new Tasman routes.
So I don't subscribe to the view that "bigger is better", necessarily. Especially when upgauging to the A321 could compromise the operation of some routes. But the takeaway here is that NZ already has an NB aircraft in its fleet that is capable of AKL-PER with a decent pax load. Freight should not be a major consideration, as long as AKL-PER continues to have some WB services.
I could see an A320NEO, configured "as is" but with perhaps twelve J seats replacing 24 Y seats for a total of 156 seats, being a serious prospect to bolster AKL-PER in addition to the current daily 789. It could carry up to 85% westbound on that basis, full on the return, and could operate outbound AKL-PER in the evening and connecting to North American services with a morning return from PER. Total number of daily seats 458, very close to the capacity offered when NZ operated 10x weekly in summer.
I could also see the same aircraft operating CHC-PER (say) 4x weekly in summer, and 2x weekly in winter (slightly shorter distance, even greater capacity). Hell, even WLG-PER nonstop appears to be possible with the take-off required at MTOW being 6,400 ft for the A320NEO. Demand on WLG-PER was about 25% higher than demand for AKL-HBA in the 2018 numbers I've seen quoted, IIRC, so 2-3x weekly on WLG-PER is by far not unrealistic.
All in all, a major surprise for me that the A320NEO performs so much better than the A321NEO at that range. I'm in the camp that says that in an environment where frequency is king, and point-to-point becomes more and more important, any future order for the A320 series should include more A320s as well as A321s.
[Edit: As an addendum, I think that a daily 156-seat A320 operating AKL-ADL - total seats 1,092/week - would be a much better option than a 5x weekly all-Y A321 offering 1,080 seats/week. So there's another route on which a mixed class A320 could be viable.]