Airline review: Air New Zealand premium economy, Auckland to Houston

Airline review: Air New Zealand premium economy, Auckland to Houston


THE AIRCRAFT

A refitted Boeing 777-200 these planes were revamped with new seats and touchscreen entertainment systems in 2015 so the airline's 25 wide body aircraft including the Dreamliner and 777-300s now all look and feel the same. Consistency like this is a comfort for any frequent flyer.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Airpoints free to join lets members win and use points on other Star Alliance airlines including Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and United.

CLASS

Premium economy.

DURATION

Thirteen hours and Ten minutes a haul so long it gets a laugh from the pilot when he announces it. Our flight departs one hour late but makes up most of it while crossing the Pacific.

FREQUENCY

Air New Zealand flies to Houston up to 5 times a week via Auckland from Brisbane, Sydney,  Melbourne, Coolangatta, Adelaide, Perth and the Sunshine Coast.

CHECKING IN

I start the journey in Brisbane where machines are not my friends. I have a stand off with a frozen check in kiosk then a bag drop that won't read my bag tag. The human staff are very friendly and sort these issues out in a flash. Immigration is a nightmare because of a mass passport control machine failure across Australia meaning all passengers need to be processed manually but this is no particular airline's fault.

THE SEAT

Thanks to quiet neighbors a 104 centimeter pitch giving me masses of legroom a 23 centimeter recline 50% more than economy and an extendable footrest I get comfortable quickly. The soft 49 centimeter wide leather seat feels more armchair than airline seat and Air New Zealand's short video explaining how your seat works helps save time and aggravation fiddling with levers.

BAGGAGE

2 check in bags of 23 kilograms each. A decadent 14 kilograms of carry on is allowed as well  for premium economy spread over 2 bags of seven kilograms each, plus one small item.

COMFORT

When my seat is fully reclined and my blanket is wrapped around me I'm almost as snug as I would be in business. Turbulence gets severe about 90 minutes into the flight but our pilot's relaxed explanation that we are bumping across the tops of the clouds helps soothe the nerves as do a couple of glasses of that famed New Zealand pinot noir. I'm able to sleep for almost Ten hours. The feather pillow helps as does the amenities kit which includes comfy blue socks and a nice rich lip balm from Auckland based company Ashley & Co.

ENTERTAINMENT

Air New Zealand's touch screen entertainment system has a very user friendly design like a smartphone app. There's a great selection of high definition new releases including A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody too arthouse films classics documentaries TV box sets video games and more. There are also nifty extras like Seat Chat which lets you message friends and family onboard Screen Share so you can watch the same movie as the seat next to you at the same time and Destinations, which includes guides videos , photos and more about your destination.

SERVICE

Staff are efficient helpful and not really friendly which suits me since I prefer minimal chit chat. Sparkling wine is offered after take off but in plastic cups given we are in premium it would be nice if they opted for glass. Staff are very forthcoming with the water always appreciated on long haul flights.

FOOD

My vegetarian meal starts with a healthy quinoa black and green olive and pea salad that I devour with fresh garlic bread followed by a chickpea stew with rice and boiled vegetables. Breakfast is  granola, fruit a yoghurt chocolate muffin.

ONE MORE THING

Recently Air New Zealand announced it will be progressively replacing this 777-200 fleet with Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft with the 1st jets set to arrive in late 2022. The new planes will be 25% more fuel efficient that the existing fleet.

THE VERDICT

Comfort is everything on these gruelling long haul flights and the Kiwi carrier pays very close attention to seat comfort. Also they have what could easily be the best entertainment system in the sky.

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