I just returned from a fun long weekend trip to Germany. The focal point of this trip was a ride in Lufthansa First Class back home. To get to Europe, though, I tried something a little different. I want to review more coach and Premium Economy long-haul products, so I got started on this trip. Air New Zealand operates a Fifth Freedom route from Los Angeles to London. They offer Premium Economy, and best of all, offered a good connecting fare to Frankfurt. I’m still working through my last trip report, so it’ll take time to get to a full review. However, I wanted to offer up a few preliminary thoughts about the product.
Expect Economy Class Ground Service, But A Few Useful Extras
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Premium Economy rarely includes any special ground services. But besides priority boarding (right after Business Class), Premium Economy mirrors regular old coach. No lounge access or priority security lane, for example. On the other hand, Air NZ does offer a couple of useful extras with Premium Economy. Namely, two carry-ons and two check bags (compared to one for standard coach). Premium Economy also includes free advance seat selection.
A Surprisingly Comfortable Seat for the Long Haul
Air NZ offers 54 Premium Economy seats in a 2-4-2 configuration on the Boeing 777-300ER. The seats offer 41″ of pitch and 19.3″ of width. That’s a substantial improvement over standard coach, which checks in at 32″ and 17.1″, respectively.
The extra 10″ of pitch really comes through in the legroom department. There’s plenty of space to stretch out.
Air New Zealand also offers a very good (almost Business Class) pillow, and a fair blanket.
Combine all that with pretty generous padding, and you have a quite decent seat for sleeping. I slept for a good 5 hours, only waking up a couple of times to adjust my neck. No, it’s not Business Class, but it’s way better than regular coach.
Decent In-Flight Amenities
Air New Zealand offers a decently-equipped amenity kit in Premium Economy, which even includes Ashley & Co. lip balm.
Passengers also receive a pair of noise-reducing headphones. I found them pretty comfortable, and they offered decent sound quality. Honestly, better than the LSTN-branded headphones offered in Delta One, for example.
Premium Economy seats also include a larger seatback screen with pretty good resolution, and a built-in USB port.
Really Good Food & Beverage
This is the part that probably impressed me the most. The food isn’t just a step-up from standard economy. It’s actually genuinely good. You get standard Economy Class plating, but food quality approaches Business Class. I enjoyed some delicious garlic bread, and a better-than-expected beef roast with vegetables. Air New Zealand also offers a premium wine selection in Premium Economy; I enjoyed a good sauvignon blanc. (Of course, packaged cheese and crackers reminds you that you’re not really in the pointy end of the plane.)
Friendly But Slow Service
The flight attendant serving our side of the aisle was friendly, and generally thoughtful. For example, she noticed my seatmate nodding off when beginning drink service, and tried to be as quiet as possible to not disturb him. We also received a quick thank you as we approached the end of our flight. However, meal service just took too much time, both at dinner and breakfast. Dinner service didn’t finish until better than 2 1/2 hours after takeoff. Breakfast, meanwhile, began nearly 2 1/2 hours before landing, and took a good 90 minutes to complete. With two flight attendants covering only 54 passengers, that seemed a little too slow.
At first blush, color me impressed. I enjoyed a comfortable seat, genuinely good food, and a few useful amenities over regular coach. I’ll write-up a full review, but this seems like a solid consolation prize if you can’t spring for Business Class. I’d rank it ahead of American’s Premium Economy product, for example.