I've always wanted to fly on Air New Zealand. This desire goes back years when I'd see NZ 1 at LAX on it's way back from London. Those days it was a 747. Today the 747 is long gone replaced by a 777. More recently Air New Zealand has stabled the new 787-9. Could it be this photo that heightened my interest even more?
With only 3 gateway cities in North America; Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles combined with stingy reward inventory, the task seemed hopeless. So I jumped at the chance to try out their business class product on both the 777-300 and new 787-9 down under on some regional flights across the Tasman sea. Were expectations fulfilled or was I in for a let down?
Carrier: Air New Zealand (NZ)
Flight #: NZ124
Date: August 2016
Route: Melbourne - Auckland
Aircraft: 777-300ER #ZK-OKM
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Rating: 5.6 out of 10 ✈
This was a revenue flight.
The Air New Zealand website offers the best fares on NZ from this experience. What was interesting is how often fares are adjusted. Originally I booked a premium economy seat to try out the now discontinued popular O class seats they offer. Still I monitored the website for business class prices and sure enough, one day the J fare was only $50 more. Plus you can book it online without paying any change fees.
Stay at Gate
Arriving from an overnight flight my first order of business was to take a shower. The Air New Zealand lounge is being refurbished so the facilities were certainly not what they will become. Checking into the club there is a single shower room, with a shower and sink but no toilet. The only amenities were shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream but no razors and a couple towels.
I've experienced more lavish facilities.
Feeling new and after the disappointing SQ breakfast it was time for some food. A look at the lounge.
It's being remodeled, they get a pass.
Some fruit, muesli or maybe a blueberry smoothie?
Or some seeds, nuts and jam to go with your yogurt.
Don't be greedy with the pasties now.
Ok, the chef is on duty.
The wi-fi worked in the lounge so all is well. I used the time to call United to complain about the new security questions and the fact I'd been locked out of my account while traveling overseas on their ticket.
Time to board. Apparently they were expecting a crowd.
What were they thinking?
Yes it is a gorgeous cabin. But this is the high mark and things deteriorate somewhat from here. Let's have a look.
Purple/Lilac is their accent color, FA's wear it too.
The original herringbone design introduced by Virgin Atlantic, whom NZ licenses these seats from.
The 777 is configured 1x2x1 for zero privacy from any seat.
A painted chandelier on the lavatory wall.
While seating might be squeezed together no such problem in the front galley. Party anyone?
Just like home
✔︎Get me off this plane
Seat 1A. If you are a window gazer you might want to visit the chiropractor to get loosened up before you board.
The seat itself is actually comfortable. The problem is you are, well in a coffin, hence appropriately called the coffin class.
This is your ottoman for those tiny feet of yours. There is a storage area underneath for something, well, small.
In 1A on your left side is the drink tray which is not accessible using the left arm.
When the word turbulence comes to mind, what do you envision?
Also deftly using your right arm you can drink from the supplied bottle of water, plug in your headphones, pop out the audio controller or release the tray.
Somewhere down there they managed to put the electronics in as well.
As you can see by some of these photos the materials used to make these pods are anything but high quality. There were lots of chips, scratches and abrasions on the pods.
After all the wisecracks and quips the seat itself is comfortable for a few hour flight. Yes it's confined but for sitting comfort it was good. The problem is you get to watch the person across the aisle.
Out of respect for the person sitting there I took this photo when he got up. This is your view.
And if you want to sit in that front seat so you are stared at but not staring yourself, you get to deal with your feet being in the aisle where flight attendants constantly enter into the cabin. The ottoman is almost halfway into the aisle. (Amazed the safety regulators allowed this.)
One of the highlights on this trip was the flight attendant who took care of me. His name was Paul and he was a delight to be around. Friendly, conversational and attentive, he was great.
I asked him if I could see what the bed looks like. These seats must be flipped over to turn them into a bed. He agreed and was about to show me when the seat belt sign came on as we hit some turbulence. No worries, the champagne was long gone.
The seat belt sign didn't go off until initial descent and of course by then he was busy. When we landed he came to my seat and asked if I wanted to wait, he'd show me the seat once the passengers exited. I call that above and beyond.
The Air New Zealand bed is very nice. First of all it doesn't have the lump in the middle of your back that most fold down seats have. It's a smooth surface with the fold up where your neck is. When in bed mode there is plenty of room for your head and arms. On overnight flights they provide a mattress and duvet along with these pillows.
Paul, the flight attendant, was enthusiastic over these beds, calling them "game changers" for Air New Zealand. He said customer response has been excellent and while I take him for his word given the chance it's doubtful he would speak negatively about them. I laid down on it, it was comfortable even without the mattress pad.
I thought I'd be able to make a full judgement on Air New Zealand, that's not possible until taking a long flight where you can try out the bed. But I'm not sure I want to. The seat is fine for short flights but narrow and cramped. And if taking a long flight I don't recommend the 777. Maybe the "A" seats will be better on the 787. (Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific A340s, some Air Canada A330s, and a few other airlines have this type of seat so beware.)
Cabin/Seats Rating: 3 out of 10 ✈
As a regional 3 hour day time flight there was no amenity kit provide or expected.
Full bar in cabin
Multiple coffee selections
Multiple tea selections
Champagne was offered, and accepted, upon boarding. The brand offered was Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, the same offered by Singapore Airlines.
Wanting to try a local wine I selected a Waiheke Island blend which was recommended by one of the crew. It must be popular in New Zealand as it was available at the hotel, for good reason. (Notice my view of 1B.)
Printed, multiple cuisines
✔︎Printed, single cuisine
Verbal by flight attendant
Mid flight snacks
The menu inspired by a gourmet donut chef.
Notice the beef selection has a rocket and almond pesto while the hapuka (fish) has tomato mango chilli ketchup for their respective sauces.
While the seating compartment may be small, when you pull out the serving table it is anything but small.
Compliments to the Chef
✔︎Fine dining with a miss or two
No rave reviews
Get me a meal from economy
The obligatory bowl of nuts to begin.
I chose the tea smoked duck breast to start and it was quite good.
For the main I choose the beef short rib and it was delicious, even tho....
In a festive mood, or nearly delirious after 24 hours of travel I chose to have some cheese.
Only to finish a very nice meal with the chocolate mousse, not knowing what Anzac cookies are. (Australian/New Zealand cookies. Tried one in New Zealand, crunchy without a distinct flavor, pretty good.)
Compliments to the donut chef and Paul.
Amenities/Food Rating: 7 out of 10 ✈
Can I stay and watch some more?
Watched a favorite and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
✔︎Glad I brought my tablet
As you can see in some of the food photos my iPad was active. This is not a coincidence.
Let's start out with the safety video. In an effort to make these mundane announcements more entertaining, some airlines have tried to inject humor. In my opinion Air New Zealand has failed unless you like, how do I say, corny?
Nice monitor isn't it. I bleed sarcasm sometimes.
My headphones remained in the plastic wrap. (But the tray is huge!)
Yes and Free
Yes and Purchase
IFE: 3 out of 10 ✈ My generosity knows no boundaries
✔︎Made the flight special
Did their job
Did they board?
As mentioned, Paul and the rest of the crew were outstanding and made this flight special.
Did you notice anything about the short rib meal I ordered? Something maybe doesn't look right?
While standing in the oversized galley waiting for the lavatory, I observed Paul making a meal for someone who must have requested a later serving or maybe a crew member. He was preparing the beef dish I had and was placing the tomato mango chilli ketchup sauce on it. Another flight attendant was in the galley as well. She stopped him and told him he was putting the wrong sauce on the dish. Turns out he had served the whole cabin the wrong sauce!
We laughed, at least Paul and I did. The other attendant wasn't amused. But what goes better with beef, ketchup or pesto? And what goes better with fish, ketchup or pesto? I think Paul got it right and the donut guy should stick to sugar.
Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
Air New Zealand 777 #ZK-OKM was delivered in 2007. It was clean and of course 777's are outstanding aircraft but the interiors on this plane were starting to show some wear and tear.
This flight was full of great and not so great impressions. The cabin is beautiful. The food was excellent. The crew was over the top nice. The seats are confined. The IFE is terrible. But I'd be flying them again in a few days, this time on their 787.
Do you have any Air New Zealand experiences you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.