Founded in 1940, New Zealand’s national carrier boasts regional hubs in ten nations around the world, flying to many of the world’s busiest airports such as Heathrow, Chep Lak Kok, Sydney and Auckland. With a fleet of 50 modern planes serving 53 destinations in total, the Kiwi airline now has a truly global reach.
As New Zealand is so far away from a good deal of the carrier’s destinations, many flights are split into two sections, with brief lay-overs in airports such as Los Angeles or Shanghai breaking up long journeys to and from this idyllic South Pacific nation. Interestingly, Air New Zealand offer seats on each individual flight segment, so passengers can now book tickets even when not necessarily fling to New Zealand.
Inexpensively priced in comparison to many competitors, international routes include Heathrow to Los Angeles, Hong Kong to Frankfurt and Sydney to Vancouver, and that’s before you look at journeys that depart or arrive in airports such as Wellington or Auckland. While there is not a great deal of scope for connections, Air New Zealand operate code-share agreements with Star Alliance airlines, the world’s largest airline alliance.
We flew the Heathrow to Los Angeles route on our journey, and had no complaints about the service, from the initial online booking to arriving in California. Despite buying two separate tickets individually, we were able to phone Air New Zealand, where a breezy, upbeat Kiwi assigned us adjacent seats for the journey. On arriving at the Gate the plane boarded rather swiftly, certainly in comparison to previous flights on other airlines at the world’s largest international airport.
As soon as we arrived at our seats in Economy Class we were put at ease, despite wondering if we had not wandered into a higher carriage class, misled by the comfortable seating and an ample foot space of up to 33 inches. We were also surprised to see that one or two people had booked out blocks of up to three seats solely for themselves, and were able to lie out flat on their seats during the flight. Known as the Economy Skycouch, this is an innovative and cheap way to book extra space on Air New Zealand’s long-haul flights without spending Business Class fees.
As for other classes of travel, the route we travelled on did not offer a dedicated First Class cabin, however, Business Premier seats seemed rather impressive, coming with flat beds, Ottoman footrests, leather armchairs and semi-private pods. Economy Premier seats, meanwhile, also feature individual pod-style seating, a step up from other long-haul airlines that utilise parallel seating in their Economy Premier cabins.
While passengers should not expect haute cuisine while on board, the Peter Gordon designed menu is healthy and fairly light, with special meals catering for those with special dietary requirements.
Air New Zealand’s on-board entertainment system, at least on their 777-300 planes, is fantastic, with 10.6 inch screens and a huge range of movies, games and television shows on offer, adding up to approximately 580 hours of content. USB and Ipod connections are also available for those who want to use their own equipment. As an added interactive touch, passengers can even requests snacks and drinks by using the touch-screen. We tried this feature out, skeptical about the responsiveness of such a system, and were pleasantly surprised when not half a minute later our whiskey and coke, on the rocks, was passed to us by a smiling stewardess.
As well as responsive, service is also chirpy and fun, with cabin crew engaging in a fair bit of banter with the rugby team also travelling on the flight. Yet, at total flight time coming in at over 11 hours, most of the flight was peaceful, with passengers able to get a good amount of quiet.
As an added bonus, our flight even arrived in Los Angeles slightly ahead of schedule, and avoided the hellishly congested Tom Bradley Terminal, instead docking in at Terminal 2. With such a smooth flight experience it is no surprise that Air Transport World magazine voted this friendly and efficient airline the world’s best in 2010, heady praise indeed.
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