787 costs weigh on Boeing (copy)

Air New Zealand already operates 13 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with another scheduled to be delivered this year. File/AP 

The South Pacific-based carrier that picked up the first 787-9 from Boeing Co. is adding the largest plane in the Dreamliner stable to its fleet.

Air New Zealand said it has signed a letter of intent to buy eight South Carolina-made 787-10 widebodies to replace the eight Boeing 777-200 jets it now deploys on long-haul flights.

The first "Dash 10" is scheduled to be delivered to the island nation's flagship airline in 2022, with the rest to follow by about 2027.

Boeing makes the plane exclusively at its North Charleston plant. It delivered the first 787-10 to a customer in March 2018. 

“This is a hugely important decision for our airline," Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon said in a written statement Monday. "With the 787-10 offering almost 15% more space for customers and cargo than the 787-9, this investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens up new opportunities to grow.”

The deal is valued at $2.7 billion based on list prices. Air New Zealand said it negotiated a "substantial" but undisclosed discount, which is typical in commercial aircraft sales.

In addition to the extra seating and cargo space, Luxon said the newly acquired jets would be 25% more fuel efficient than the older Boeing 777s they'll be replacing. 

"In connecting New Zealand with the world, we naturally offer a high proportion of long-haul flights, and these state-of-the-art aircraft will ensure we continue to operate one of the world's youngest and most efficient jet fleets," he said.

The 787-10 is the largest of three Dreamliner versions. 

In 2014, Air New Zealand became the first Boeing customer to take ownership of a 787-9. Since then, it has purchased 12 more of the jets, with another scheduled to be delivered this year.

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Luxon said the 787-9 Dreamliners "have proved to be the perfect aircraft for the airline's Pacific Rim focus."

“The 787-10 is longer and even more fuel efficient," he said. "However, the game changer for us has been that by working closely with Boeing, we've ensured the 787-10 will meet our network needs, including the ability to fly missions similar to our current 777-200 fleet." 

Luxon told the aviation website FlightGlobal.com that the Dash 10 "is not only a natural candidate for our destinations across Asia, but it will also be a great link for New Zealand, linking it to the east coast of America as well."

Air New Zealand's latest agreement with the aircraft maker includes options to increase its order to 20 Dash 10 planes. It also give the carrier flexibility around the delivery dates and the right to replace some of its new orders with the smaller 787-9.

"This is a bold decision by the airline and will help carry forward the ambitions of Air New Zealand for many years to come," said Christy Reese, a Boeing sales and marketing executive for the Asia-Pacific region.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott