The FAA has granted Boeing type-design approval for four 777 models to fly 330 min. extended operations (ETOPS), boosting the long-distance safety rating by 123 min.

The new rule will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific, over the North Pole and from Australia to South America to fly the most direct routes. The first carrier to take advantage of the new rule, Air New Zealand, put it into service in early December flying from Los Angeles to Auckland.

At this stage, the 330 min. rating for 777s applies to General Electric-powered 777-200ERs, 777-300ERs, 777-200LRs and 777 Freighters. GE is the exclusive powerplant provider on all but the 777-200ER, which also can be powered by Pratt & Whitney or Rolls-Royce engines. Approval for them is expected in the next few months, Boeing says.

The original 777 rating from the FAA for the big twin-engine jet was 180 min., but was later extended to 207 min. by an application from carriers. Winning an initial 180 rating, rather than an earlier 120 min. standard, was a breakthrough for Boeing when the 777 entered service in 1995.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) granted a 207-min. type rating last October after receiving an application from Air France to fly a 777-300ER from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti. EASA is expected to adopt the 330 min. rule.

While ETOPS initially stood for extended twin operations, it now refers to “extended operations” and defines the time length that an aircraft is permitted to be from an emergency landing site in case of an engine failure.

However, while it is currently being applied to two-engine jets, the FAA’s rule on 180 min. ETOPS operations for four-engine jets such as the Boeing 747-8 will not come into effect until Feb. 17, 2015. Past that date, all four-engine transports will be certified for 180 min.

Besides the ETOPS type-design approval that manufactures must receive, airlines must win their own regulatory permission to operate ETOPS routes.