Sydney to Auckland
Boeing Dreamliner 787-9. Air New Zealand plans to introduce 10 of these aircraft, favoured by airlines around the world due to their exemplary fuel economy, by 2017. The plane on which I'm travelling, painted in the Kiwi national carrier's bold, new black and white livery, is the first of the 787-9 to be operational.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Just over three hours.
Air New Zealand operates seven flights, including codeshare services with Virgin Australia, daily between Sydney and Auckland and five a day between Melbourne and Auckland.
3K in a 1-1-1 herringbone-style formation. Air New Zealand has introduced stylish new "soft chalk-coloured" leather business class seats aboard its brand new Dreamliners. A special "ottoman" footrest also serves as seat for a guest. There's a welcome large table which adjusts for easy aisle access while in use, meaning you can visit the loo without having to wait for the flight attendant to clear your tray or place it to the side so you can work on a laptop. The width of the seat is 22 inches (56 centimetres) while in flat-bed mode it's 33 inches (84cm) at the shoulder and 79 inches (200cm) long. The seat flips to create a bed with a foam mattress, two full-sized pillows and a duvet with Air New Zealand allowing passengers to recline in any position for taxi, takeoff and landing. Although the configuration of the seating provides privacy between you and the passenger next to you, if you're positioned on the right-hand and middle rows it also means you're almost directly facing other passengers directly across the aisle.
Business Premier passengers are allowed three pieces at a maximum weight of 23 kilograms each.
Business Premier seats features an 11-inch, high-definition touch screen (2 inches bigger than economy) and premium headphones. The screen display is inspired by Smartphone and tablet apps with large buttons for a range of services, including food and drink orders. There's the usual vast array of film, TV, music and radio channels as well a cute touch (and Air New Zealand is a master of cute) is the naming of channel genres. These include "Chick Flicks" and "Man Cave". On this trans-Tasman hop, there's just enough time to watch a full-length feature film.
Among the Dreamliner's many "firsts" is its windows, larger than any other jetliner, which deliver more natural light with adjustable tint-based lighting-levels. It's claimed that, due to a superior air-purification system, which provides fresher air circulation, higher humidity and a lower cabin altitude, the effects of jet-lag are reduced. However, on such a short flight as this dash across the ditch there's thankfully no chance of jet-lag.
Air New Zealand has managed to develop a distinctive efficient and mostly polished style of service which reflects the world-renowned friendliness and cheerfuless of Kiwis.
New Zealand's best-known celebrity chef, Peter Gordon, is the Kiwi carrier's answer to Qantas' Neil Perry. The former's dishes on the lunch menu, transparently identified by a "PG" after each entry, on this flight are a entree of spiced chicken with grilled pineapple and chicory salad and a double-up main of poached chicken salad with grapes, toasted pecans, cucumber, gem lettuce and sour cream dressing. I opt for the entree but not the main, preferring a choice of gourmet style fish and chips with panko crusted hapuka potato and fennel gratin, crushed peas and lemon aioli.
ONE MORE THING
Check out the loos where Air New Zealand's designers have had some indulgent fun.
This passenger is not persuaded by the herringbone business class formation, particularly when facing passengers across the aisle. But the design of the seat itself, the ready access to the aisle and the quality of the service are unquestionably a standout.
Tested by Anthony Dennis, who flew courtesy of Air New Zealand the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour.