Although flights will not start for another year and a half (longer if Boeing runs into more production trouble), Continental announced that it will utilize its first 787 on a new Houston-Auckland route.
With 228 Economy and 36 lie-flat seats in Business Class, the new "Goldilocks" aircraft (not too big, not too small, just right) is perfect for the ~7,400 mile flight.
Houston – Auckland
Depart IAH 2130
Arrive AKL 0530 (+2 days)
Depart AKL 1540
Arrive IAH 1150 (same day)
Houston – Auckland
Depart IAH 2110
Arrive AKL 0655 (+2 days)
Depart AKL 1755
Arrive IAH 1155 (same day)
With CO’s entrance into Star Alliance, easy connections to 30+ destinations in New Zealand, Australia, and Oceania will be available. Plus, with UA flyers utilizing Bush Intercontinental to connect, CO should be well-positioned to enjoy success on a city that UA abandoned (LAX-AKL) four years ago. Air New Zealand will also be able to market the CO flight as a codeshare and offer their passengers easier U.S. connections to the South, Midwest, and East than going through LAX, SFO, or YVR.
Service is scheduled to begin on November 16, 2011. Much can happen between now and that time, but I am optimistic that UA/CO will succeed on this new route. I can understand why CO would want to showcase their new 787 on this "flagship" route, but I wonder if a UA three-cabin 777 or 747 might take it over eventually. A 7,400 mile flight seems to me to be a better flight to sell tri-cabin First Class seats on than a hop from Dulles to Brussels or Rome (for example). On the other hand, Houston is not Los Angeles or San Francisco and the 787 may indeed be the best aircraft for the route. Time will tell.
According to the announcement:
The aircraft will have 228 seats, including 36 of Continental’s new flat-bed BusinessFirst seats for the best rest on long-distance flights.
So there will be 228 total, 36J and 192Y. Over on the Continental board on FT there is some discussion of trying to figure out how much legroom that offers.
@kd5mdk: It will be interesting to see if Economy Plus survives the merger and is added to CO planes. I am hopeful that it will.