This Air New Zealand Business Premier (business class) flight review is part of my trip to Japan and New Zealand a few months ago.
Air New Zealand is a Star Alliance member and is the national flag carrier of New Zealand. Based in Auckland, Air New Zealand flies to 26 international destinations across Asia, Australia, Europe, North/South America and the South Pacific. Air New Zealand is a four star rated airline by Skytrax and is best known as the official airline to Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings). Their frequent flyer program is called AirPoints and they are a SPG transfer partner. But beware, Airpoints is a revenue based frequent flyer program so I don’t really recommend transferring any Starpoints to them.
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Auckland (AKL) to Shanghai (PVG)
Depart: 11:15 PM on Friday (11:25 PM actual)
Arrive: 7:30 AM next day
Duration: 12hr 5mn
Seat: 5K Business Class
Auckland is fairly small for an international airport and check-in was quick and easy for premium cabin passengers thanks to a dedicated premium check-in area. Located around the corner from the main check-in counters, the premium check-in area is available to AirPoints elite members, Star Alliance Gold and Virgin Australia Velocity elite members even if traveling in economy class.
Check-in literally took three minutes and we were directed to a private elevator, up to the dedicated customs and security area. Customs took another two minutes and security was also painless to get through. The security checkpoint dumps you right into a duty-free shopping area and the Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge is located to the right of the duty free shops. Just follow the signs for “Premium Lounges.”
We hung out at the Koru Club Lounge for a couple hours and tried to get some work done. But it was fairly crowded and loud so we just decided to start drinking early. About 30 minutes prior to boarding time, we made our way to the gate and hung out with everyone else bound for Shanghai.
Boarding was delayed about 10 minutes and started with business class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. Business class passengers boarded through door 1L and all other passengers boarded through door 2L. There is only one business class cabin on the Boeing 777-200s, located between doors 1L and 2L. Because everyone else boarded through door 2L, there was no additional foot traffic through the business class cabin and the flight attendants were able to walk around to assist passengers and serve pre-departure drinks.
Air New Zealand only has four wide-body aircraft types on their long-haul routes: Boeing 777-300ERs, 777-200s, 767-300s and 787-9 Dreamliners. The ones you really want to avoid are the Boeing 767s as they are still outfitted with their old recliner seats in business class. They are slowly being phased out with the arrival of new aircraft but they are still found on routes to Honolulu, Los Angeles (via Raratonga), Papeete, Tokyo and others.
As for the Boeing 777s, only some of the 777-200s are still configured with the first generation Business Premier seats. The rest of the Boeing 777-200s, 777-300ERs and 787-9 Dreamliners are all outfitted with the second generation Business Premier seats. But don’t worry if you find yourself with the first generation seats. The second generation seats are just newer and prettier. Functionally, they are nearly identical and offer the same width, pitch and lie-flat surface.
On the first generation Boeing 777-200s, the Business Premier cabin is configured with 26 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1, herringbone layout. These are the same type of seats used by other airlines such as Air Canada, Delta and Virgin Atlantic. On this flight, business class was completely full. I was seated in seat 5K, a window seat on the right side of the plane and my friend Orlando was seated in seat 5J, an aisle seat across from me.
Behind the business class cabin is a small premium economy class cabin with 64 seats in a 3 x 3 x 3 layout. The premium economy seats offer 41 inches of pitch and 17.8 inches of width. However, you should know the tray tables are located in the fixed armrests and cause the seats to lose a little bit of width. So yes, you are getting a ton of extra legroom but you will sacrifice a tiny bit of hip space.
Behind the premium economy cabin class are two economy class cabins with standard seats in a 3 x 3 x 3 layout. Standard economy seats offer 31 to 33 inches of pitch and 17.8 inches of width. These aren’t the best numbers but they are better than economy class seats on their Boeing 777-300ERs with 10 seats across and 17.1 inches of width!
Business Premier seats are true, lie-flats. They offer 79.5 inches of pitch, 22 inches of width and when fully reclined, the bed measures 6.5 feet in length. Each seat is equipped with its own personal Audio Visual On-Demand (AVOD) In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system, universal electrical outlet and two personal reading lamps.
These seats have a ton of storage spaces nearby but the seat itself felt a little confined and claustrophobic. In addition to the overhead bins, there are plenty of small pockets at the seat to keep your passport, cell phone, laptop and other small electronics nearby. The ottoman doubles as a guest seat if you want to have dinner with someone and as an extension of your seat in bed mode.
Herringbone seats are great for solo travelers as they offer direct aisle access for every passenger but not so great for people traveling together. The window seats all face away from the windows (I really hate that) and the two rows of center aisle seats all face away from each other. When we booked this flight, we couldn’t decide if it was better to sit next to each other, across from each other or in front of each other so we could talk and hang out. We ended up choosing to sit across from each other and I think that was the better of all the options.
That being said, the seats are not very private. The partitions are very low and everyone can see each other above the partitions. My other complaint is that you can’t control the individual parts of the seat so it was a little hard to get into a comfortable position. And since we’re talking about the negatives, these seats are old and are really showing their wear and tear.
Waiting at our seats were noise-cancelling headphones, slippers, amenities kits, a pillow and bottle of water. There were duvets, memory foam mattress pads and an extra pillow located behind each seat for turndown service. As we were getting settled into our seats, the flight attendants came by to offer everyone a hot towel, pre-departure drink (orange juice, sparkling wine or water) and printed menus. After a few minutes, the flight attendants came back to take meal orders. Because this was a red-eye flight, there was a “fast dine” option for those wishing to eat quickly and get to bed right away.
The amenities kit was fun and very typical Air New Zealand style but lacked the quality that you would expect. The felt-like case felt flimsy and cheap and could not be re-purposed for anything else. Inside, there were basic items such as earplugs, eyeshades, socks, a dental kit, pen and Clarins branded face moisturizer and lip balm.
After all the passengers were boarded, we pushed back from the gate, made our way to the runway and began our 12 hour and 5 minute journey to Shanghai.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the seatbelt signs were turned off and the flight attendants came by to serve the passengers who chose the fast dine option. As they were doing that, the Flight Manager came by to introduce himself to all the passengers, hand out arrival cards and made small with everyone. It was a nice touch and kept us occupied while the flight attendants were doing their thing.
After the flight attendants were done serving the fast dine passengers, they then came around to set everyone else’s tables and got right into the dinner service. The tray table can be pushed back and forth so you can easily get up to use the bathroom without having to fold the table away.
Pre-meal drinks were served with dinner and there were no nuts or canapés served beforehand. Dinner started with Sichuan style prawns, bread bowl selection and was followed by the main dish. I chose the mixed dim sum and Orlando chose the braised beef short rib. There were no soup or salad dishes.
After the main course was completed, our trays were cleared and the flight attendants came by with a cheese and dessert option and coffee/tea. I’m not much of a cheese guy so I skipped that but I did have the ice cream.
I’m not sure if you can tell by the pictures but the food was really good. It was not a heavy meal and it was the perfect amount of food for a night flight. If you need more food than this, I’d recommend filling up in the lounge beforehand.
The meal service was very quick and the flight attendants came around frequently to refill my drink, serve food and clear out plates. After dinner, the lights were dimmed and I asked for my bed to be made. Here’s something that you should know about these seats. They do recline back but they do not recline flat. They have to be folded over which then forms a flat surface for sleeping.
Turn down service included a memory foam mattress pad, duvet and second pillow. Comfort-wise, this was one of the most comfortable seats I have slept on in business class. Other than being a little tight, I had an amazing few hours of sleep. The memory foam mattress pad really did the trick and the retractable armrest helped with the width in the shoulder area.
With a full stomach and some drinks under my belt, I was totally happy and settled in for a movie. The In-flight entertainment (IFE) system was pretty good. The large screen was very bright (unable to be dimmed) and there was a good selection of new movies, television shows, games and a moving map. I watched a movie and then dozed off for a few hours. And by a few, I meant six glorious, uninterrupted hours.
About an hour and a half before arrival, the lights were turned on and the flight attendants prepared for our pre-arrival, breakfast service. Breakfast started with a smoothie and fruit with yogurt. After that, I went with the lemon scented toasted brioche with fig and blueberry compote, lemon curd yogurt and vanilla syrup. And in case you couldn’t tell, that was the MOST AMAZING breakfast I have ever had on a plane. It was so delicious!
After breakfast, I had some coffee and enjoyed the smoggy views of our arrival into Shanghai.
Service wise, this Shanghai based crew was great. They all spoke English and everything was said with a smile. They walked the cabin frequently and made sure we were taken care of. They were polite, proactive and genuinely appeared to care about taking care of us.
Air New Zealand business class bottom line:
I’m a huge fan of Air New Zealand and I can’t wait to fly them again. Even though these seats were a little on the old side and they are not the best configuration, the addition of the memory foam mattress pads made a huge difference in the comfort and quality of rest. The in-flight catering is just fantastic and the crew was equally great. I enjoyed the food on-board and I couldn’t ask for anything more of the flight attendants. They took care of the passengers and they were personable and engaging.
It really is a shame that Air New Zealand doesn’t release any premium cabin award space for flights to North America as I would love to fly them again sometime. If you want to experience Air New Zealand’s Business Premier product, you will have a much better chance finding availability to/from Asia.
Other trip reports in this series:
- Introduction: How we booked our trip using United miles
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at LAX
- Air New Zealand Lounge at LAX
- Air China “Forbidden Pavilion” first class Los Angeles to Beijing, Boeing 777-300ER
- Air China first class lounge at PEK
- Air China business class Beijing to Seoul, Airbus A330-300
- Hilton Seoul
- United Airlines “BusinessFirst” Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita, Boeing 787-8
- Asiana business class lounge at ICN
- Asiana business class Seoul to Tokyo Narita, Airbus A330-300
- Conrad Tokyo
- Hilton Tokyo
- ANA business class lounge at NRT
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Tokyo Narita to Bangkok, Boeing 747-400
- Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge at BKK
- Thai Airways “Royal Silk” business class Bangkok to Auckland, Boeing 777-200
- Hilton Auckland
- Emperor Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand Koru Club Lounge at AKL
- Air New Zealand “Business Premier” Auckland to Shanghai, Boeing 777-200
- Air China business class lounge at PVG
- Air China business class Shanghai to Taipei, Airbus A330-300
- EVA Air Evergreen Lounge at TPE
- EVA Air “Royal Laurel” business class Taipei to Los Angeles, Boeing 777-300ER