Flying Air New Zealand Roundtrip to Sydney, Australia

Premium Economy seats on Air New Zealand (photo from Air New Zealand)
Premium Economy seats on Air New Zealand (photo from Air New Zealand)

Last Fall when the color of the leaves started to change and there was a definite chill in the air, it reminded me that our much anticipated trip was right around the corner and before I knew it, we were heading to the Land Down Under. I had a huge list full of all the must see Australian destinations, that I’d been putting together for months, so to say I was excited is an understatement. Australia is surely on everyone’s bucket list! October arrived and it was time for us to venture onward from Boston to Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. I was especially excited as we were flying in Premium Economy with Air New Zealand and we would be seated in their super funky futuristic seats as shown above.

Of course, we needed to check in first and although I don’t have any pictures showing check in at LAX with Air New Zealand, it was definitely an experience. Premium Economy has a separate check in counter and when we arrived, there was a long line of people ahead of us. When it was our turn to check in, I was in for an unexpected and unanticipated surprise. Despite having booked online through Air New Zealand, we were asked if we had visas to enter Australia. What? Unless you’re an Australian or New Zealand citizen, you’ll need a visa. Immediately, I started to panic, but the ticket agent assuaged my fears. Apparently, it’s on their web site as well as on my booking confirmation, but I just wish there had been a step that allowed me to purchase this online at the time of booking. We were, however, able to purchase the visa at the airport for $25 each, which was definitely helpful, but if you can do yours in advance online, you’ll do it at no charge. For our long haul flight we were each allowed to bring two pieces of checked baggage with a maximum weight of 23kg each (50 lbs). Instead of weighing each bag in separately, all of our bags were put on the scale and weighed together. We then had to bring our bags over to a separate area to go through the scanner and from there, we could then head up the escalator to go through security.

null_zps6d0a9f38As we were flying in Premier Economy and not Business class, we couldn’t use the Air New Zealand lounge. But that didn’t prevent me from still finding a lounge! We headed to the Maple Leaf Lounge next door to the Air New Zealand lounge. This is a bare bones, minimal type lounge, but it served its purpose. I wanted a place to sit and unwind for a short bit before getting on the plane and it did just that. The Maple Leaf Lounge is for Air Canada guests, but as we had a lounge pass we were allowed into the lounge. If I had my choice, I probably would’ve skipped this place entirely as it wasn’t really clean and the food choices were minimal. But the worst part was the employee at the door who was on a personal call when we came in and then started giving me attitude, which I could really have done without. After we had already checked in, I went on FourSquare and it seems like some people are able to get into the Air New Zealand lounge on occasion so I would suggest trying to get in there first.

null_zpsd7d41670It was finally time to board the flight and we made our way to our seats in Premium Economy. The aircraft is a Boeing 777-300, which was scheduled to fly nonstop from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand in 13 hours for a total of 6,512 miles. On this aircraft there are twelve rows and 44 seats in Business Premier, eight rows and 44 seats in Premium Economy, and 27 rows and 244 seats in Economy. Additionally, in rows 37-46 in Economy are Economy Skycouch seats where you can have the seats in the row become something of a lay flat couch.

6ACD4860-0ABF-4514-AE04-F83221169B44_zps3dwj6dvoSeating in Premier Economy is spacious and extremely comfortable in their own self-enclosed pods. The seats are a light leather color and while not as wide or long as those in Business class, they are definitely perfect for a long haul flight. Although you can’t see it, there is a super cute purple beanbag that replaces what would be a built in footrest. Let’s be honest here. I’m on the shorter side at 5’4″ and there are times when I can’t always reach the floor so having a malleable footrest is perfect. From within your pod, you have everything you will need for your flight to make it a relaxing and comfortable experience including a pillow, bottle of water, and noise canceling headphones. The seats move within the pod so even if you recline your seat back, it won’t disturb anyone around or behind you.

null_zps59fb07da1Right about now you might have noticed that there is a purple hue to these pictures. That’s because Air New Zealand has mood lighting that changes colors throughout the flight. By using mood lighting, it is supposed to help with time changes as you fly through different time zones to your destination.

8D807E7D-F3A8-422F-ABD6-F9D4F3875BC0_zpsmnm3opffAir New Zealand suggests that if you’re flying with a companion, then you should take the inner set of seats and if you’re flying alone, then you should choose for the seats by the window. I did see several sets of couples in the window seats and they seemed comfortable so I think it could work either way. Our seats were close to Business Premier so you can see that their seats are similar to ours, but they’re individual lay flat seats. Air New Zealand allows you to “bid” on an upgrade so you can move up in class, but once you bid you can’t change your price so bid wisely. You’ll find out shortly before you travel if your bid is accepted. This is a great way to upgrade your flight at a price that works for you if it is accepted.

null_zpscace0b05The overhead bins in Premium Economy are over each set of seats, including the center set of seats. Sometimes airlines will omit the overhead bins from the middle section of seats, which can cause passengers to fight over the limited space. It was nice to pretty much have an overhead bin all to myself, even though I really didn’t need all the space.

null_zps149cb150The entertainment center in your seat can reside in the compartment or can be pulled out and moved around for the perfect viewing angle. You can watch the latest movies, TV shows, listen to music, play a game, or even order beverages and snacks right from your screen. You can even ask the flight attendant for an adapter, which is free for use during your flight if you’re in Business or Premium Economy, which will allow you to connect your computer, iPad, or iPhone and play your programs right onto the entertainment center in your seat.

null_zps1fd5a1aaTypically, my husband gets antsy on long flights and so the reason we try to book Business or anything other than economy is so that the 6′ tall man will have a little leg room in which to stretch out and relax. The seating configuration on the Boeing 777-300 is pure perfection and so much so that the man actually slept for 9 hours! That is a world record for him because he typically never sleeps at all on a flight.

Cuddle Up in Premium Economy

I took a picture of the card that comes in your Premium Economy seat that suggests ways for you to enjoy and relax in your seat. The center console in between the two seats works as either a table or footrest. While I was a bit fidgety, I did try out some of these suggestions and can tell you that even when I didn’t sleep, I was still extraordinarily comfortable. I especially liked the privacy that the edging around the pod affords you as it felt like I was alone on the plane with my husband as I really didn’t notice or hear other people throughout my flight. This allowed me some peace of mind that if I wanted to fall asleep, I wouldn’t have to worry about my head bobbing or worse, wondering if people would notice if my mouth ended up slightly ajar.

Air New Zealand Premium Economy Amenity Kit

Just like a small child, I have to admit that opening up the amenity kit when I fly is like Christmas. The Premium Economy amenity kit from Air New Zealand contained brightly colored stripe socks, ear plugs, a pen, a sleep mask that reads “Beware I sleep walk,” a toothbrush and a small tube of Colgate toothpaste, and a few Clarins products including HydraQuench cream as well as a lip balm. It comes inside an envelope style fabric bag with a button hole-type closure. I don’t imagine that I’ll reuse the bag for anything, but it was easy to store away.

Vegetarian meal
Vegetarian meal

The food service on our flights were pretty good. I was able to easily order vegetarian meals for us at the time of booking, which was a nice convenience. While other guests were able to choose from their in flight menu, we had a set meal, which was fine with us. Here we started with a small fruit plate, salad with get cheese, cheese and crackers.

Vegetarian entree

Our entree was quinoa with vegetables, which was interesting, but well seasoned even at the high altitude. The vegetables were sautéed mushrooms, spinach, and ratatouille.

Snack time!

Prior to falling asleep, my husband decided to unwind with a Steinlager and some vege crisps. The flight attendants were some of the best we’ve ever had on flights as they were attentive without being overly intrusive. Air New Zealand has really perfected this and other airlines could take a cue from them.

Vegetarian breakfast

Before we landed we were offered breakfast, which was fruit salad, yogurt, and a croissant. My Britto Cheeky Monkey accompanied me on this flight and he was feeling far more enthusiastic than I felt. These long flights can really zap your energy.

I hope it doesn’t seem terribly weird, but I couldn’t help but take pictures while I was in the restroom of the wallpaper. Generally, airplane restrooms are of the bland, generic pale variety so to see wallpaper that dressed it up and made it seem so chic and downright fancy. It was only when I was back at home looking at the pictures did I realize that the chandelier on the right was made up entirely of forks, knives, and spoons.

New Zealand from the air
New Zealand from the air

Before flying back to the United States, we flew a short three hour flight on Air New Zealand from Sydney to Auckland. I snapped a few pictures from the window of the amazing view of New Zealand as we began our approach. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Which one will you do? Go to gate or relax?
Which one will you do? Go to gate or relax?

Our return flight home on Air New Zealand had us going to San Francisco instead of Los Angeles. If I had stopped to think about this a little more, I might have wanted to change this and you’ll see why in a moment. In the meantime, I loved that the departure board said you could “relax.”

Our seat in row 23 gave us a view of the bulkhead and the seated flight attendant
Our seat in row 23 gave us a view of the bulkhead and the seated flight attendant

Our nonstop flight to San Francisco was going to be on a different aircraft than the one we flew in on as this was a Boeing 777-200. The total flight time was 12 hours, 15 minutes for a total of 6,526 miles. The airplane had a more traditional seating configuration with seven row and 26 seats in Business Premier, four rows and 36 seats in the Premium Economy section, and 29 rows and 242 seats in Economy class. In our Premium Economy section as well as in Economy, there were nine seats across with three seats in each section. This was definitely going to be a challenging flight as I ended up in the middle seat between my husband and a slightly deranged man to my left. Throughout the long flight he kept nodding off and leaning over into my seat and when he was awake, he chose to do ab crunches while seated. The idea of personal space seemed to elude this man entirely.

Vegetarian meal
Vegetarian meal

We were in the first row of Premium Economy, which meant that our tray tables were between our seats as well as our entertainment center. Our meals on this flight were fine, but somewhat heavy. Our preordered vegetarian meals came in two parts. The tray arrived first with a salad of tomato, greens, mozzarella, and pine nuts, a cheese tray, and chocolate cake. Since we were served before the other passengers, we assumed that this was our entire meal.

Vegetarian entree
Vegetarian entree

After everyone else had been served, the flight attendant delivered what was our entree, which was an extremely heavy dish of gnocchi with pesto, and butter beans with some kind of a tomato and mushroom sauce. It was far too heavy to eat and while I did pick at the beans and mushrooms, for the most part it went uneaten.

airnzbMy overall thoughts on Air New Zealand is that this airline is one that prides itself on service to its customers. While our outbound flight was nothing short of spectacular, our flight back was definitely less memorable. I do plan on flying on Air New Zealand again and will absolutely book a seat in Premium Economy, but only if I can find a flight that is using a Boeing 777-300. Do I think that the upgraded seat was worth the extra expense? Without a doubt and for long haul flights, nothing beats being absolutely comfortable and receiving great service from the flight attendants onboard the flight. Kudos to Air New Zealand for a great travel product and their dedication to exemplary service!

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