Hotel Review – Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 16-Sep-2014 07:50

As a semi frequent visitor to Sydney I typically tend to stay in the CBD. As I was recently there for a long weekend I decided to spend one of the nights in Coogee, a beachfront suburb in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Coogee Beach is one of Sydney’s busiest beaches. It’s not (quite) as crowded as Bondi Beach, and doesn’t get quite as many tourists. Bus connections from the CBD are very frequent, with a travel time of around 30 minutes depending on traffic. It’s also one end of the spectacular Bondi to Coogee coastal walkway, which is certainly a must do if you’re in the area.

I checked in late on a Saturday afternoon and was promptly upgraded to a suite as I have Platinum Elite status with IHGs loyalty program, IHG Rewards. This hotel doesn’t feature club floors or club lounge unlike many other Crowne Plaza hotels and business services are limited to a small business centre with several PCs.

The hotel features  an outdoor pool, gym and conference rooms. It has a bar and restaurant in the hotel itself, and another bar/cafe/restaurant on the level below that has a street frontage.

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The suite on the 6th floor was a good size, however the layout did seem a little peculiar at first due to the desk being located behind the bed and the TV being located off centre from the bed.

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The room featured a well stocked mini bar which was reasonably priced.

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The room also featured a good size walk in wardrobe and bathroom with bathrobes and a safe.

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The room featured a balcony with a sensational view over Coogee Beach.

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As an IHG Platinum Elite customer I was entitled to free WiFi.  At login an option to upgrade to a “premium” faster service  was offered, however this did cost extra so it’s not something I tested. The basic free service offered speeds of around 1Mbps down and around 500kbps up in the single test I performed. If you don’t have any status with IHG you’ll find internet costs $19.95 per day, or $29.95 per day for the premium offering. Free access is available in the lobby for all guests.

The in room TV offering was great with all channels being in digital and the correct aspect ratio. Nothing annoys me more than a TV still distributing analogue video over RF with poor picture quality, and even worse, in the wrong aspect ratio. There are simply no excuses these days for either these days, but many hotels still can’t grasp this. The channel offering was a great selection of free to air and pay TV channels along with on-demand movies. The TV also offered the ability to record content and play it back from the EPG, something I haven’t seen offered before on a hospitality TV.

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My stay was a pleasant one and all staff were friendly. The only thing not perfect in my room was a badly stained chair foot rest that had clearly seen better days.

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While in Sydney a friend mentioned that this hotel is used extensively by a nearby hospital as a kind of  “maternity recuperation wing” for newborn babies and mothers. A lot of screaming from a baby was heard on numerous occasions while walking down the corridor, and medical equipment was present in the corridor outside my room during the entire stay, which I’m not sure is the most appropriate place to leave it. I don’t want to feel like I’m in a hospital when I’m on holiday.

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Overall I was very happy with my stay, and it’s certainly somewhere I’d stay again if I was looking at stay in the Coogee area.



Will the iPhone 6 work in New Zealand?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 10-Sep-2014 07:36

It’s safe to say Apple have some kick ass RF engineers working for them. Building phones with support for multiple bands and technologies isn’t simple, and it’s safe to say Apple have set a new benchmark with the iPhone6. No other phone on the market comes close to supporting the same number of 4G/LTE bands in a single device.

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The iPhone6 and iPhone6 Plus include support for all GSM, 3G/WCMDA and LTE bands used in New Zealand. This includes the new 700Mhz 4G/LTE network (band 28) which is currently being deployed by both Vodafone and Telecom in New Zealand.

For reference the following bands are used in New Zealand by the various companies -

Vodafone

GSM 900Mhz & 1800Mhz, 3G/UMTS/HSPA+ 900Mhz and 2100Mhz, 4G/LTE 700Mhz (band 28), 1800Mhz (band 3), 2600Mhz (band 7)

Spark

3G/UMTS/HSPA+ 850Mhz and 2100Mhz, 4G/LTE 700Mhz (band 28), 1800Mhz (band 3), 2600Mhz (band 7)

2degrees

GSM 900Mhz & 1800Mhz, 3G/UMTS/HSPA+ 900Mhz and 2100Mhz., 4G/LTE 1800Mhz (band 3). 2degrees also own management rights for 700Mhz (band 28) but have not yet deployed a network using this band.



Flight Review NZ84

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Sep-2014 20:50

I’ve flown business class on Air New Zealand three times in the past year, however all these flights have been on 767-300 aircraft that feature an old style business class offering and lack lie-flat seats. A holiday to Canada and the US with three friends was the perfect opportunity to check out Air New Zealand’s long haul offering on their 777-200. The trip was made even more special with the whole four of us sitting in Business Premier.

Air New Zealand’s long haul offering is a very mixed bag at present. Flights are operated by 767-300, 777-200ER (77E), 777-300ER (77W) and 747-400 (744) aircraft, all of which offer very different offerings across economy, premium economy and business class. As I write this, their single remaining 747-400 is due to be retired from the fleet this week. Long haul services of their new 787-900 are due to begin within the next month.

The 767-300 lacks lie-flat seating, instead opting for a short haul business class offering (you can read my flight review here), and also lacks a premium economy offering. The 777-200, 777-300ER, 747-400 and 787-900 all feature three classes of service. All feature Virgin Atlantic’s business class seat in a herringbone layout, ensuring that every passenger has direct aisle access which is one of the great features of Air New Zealand’s offering.

Boarding for out flight was on time and I was greeted by a nice smile and welcome while boarding. Air New Zealand typically only use a single door for boarding all passengers, with separate queues at the counter for economy and premium customers.

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I had seat 3K for my  flight. Despite being a window seat, looking out the window is slightly difficult due to the angle of the seat – something that’s not a fault as such, but if you’re somebody who likes gazing out the window you may end up slightly disappointed.

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The 77E still features an old Rockwell Collins in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. This is a 4:3 aspect ratio, non touch screen system. While content is virtually identical across all long haul aircraft, this is an old system that’s very clunky to use compared to the newer Panasonic touch screen systems features on the 767-300, 777-300 and 787-900 aircraft. The newer Panasonic systems also offer additional features such as ordering drinks and snacks from the IFE.

As I write this the 777-200 fleet is currently in the process of being refitted with entirely new seats across all cabins, and a new Panasonic IFE system. The first aircraft is complete, and a second is underway at present. The upgrade of the entire fleet of 777-200 aircraft is due for completion by late 2015. The business class seats will match these that feature in the 777-300 and 787-900 aircraft, which is simply an upgraded model of this same seat.

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Upon sitting down I was welcomed by the cabin crew and inflight service manager and offered a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Air New Zealand serve Mumm Champagne, and as I’m a fan I felt it would be rude to turn this down. The seats feature an ottoman which also features a seatbelt so it can be used as a seat if a travel partner wants to join at meal times.

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The seat features space for phones, headphones, reading material etc in storage areas underneath the screen, and also inside a pop up storage bin.

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On every seat there is a menu, and amenity kit featuring Clarins lip balm & moisturiser, socks, toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask and a pen. Noise cancelling headphones are also provided, which are a lot better than most airline headphones, are certainly no match for my Bose QC15s.

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Just before takeoff orders were taken for a drinks service which was delivered as we reached cruise altitude. This was accompanied by pretzels and dip. Another glass of Mumm? It’d be rude to say no.

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Not long after this the appetiser was served, along with a choice of breads.

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This was followed by the main. I opted for the roast chicken breast which was simply  delicious.

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Deciding what to have for desert was a tough decision. I opted for the cheesecake which was delicious, however I’m assured the tart was fantastic as well.IMG_20140806_220323

After a few more glasses of  red wine followed by  a Glemorange 10yr as a nightcap, it was time to sleep. The crew had my seat converted to a bed in record time.  A memory  foam mattress sits on top of the seat, complete with 2 full size pillows.

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I managed to get a good 5 hours sleep on out 13 hour flight and awoke to a choice of juice or a fruit smoothie.

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Which was followed by fresh fruit, a choice of cereals and muesli, and yoghurt. This was accompanied by  a selection of bakery  items including croissants or toast.

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And followed down by a delicious brioche. I’d had this before and loved it, but it was a tough choice between that and the corn fritters which looked great!

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It wasn’t long after breakfast that we made landfall, tracking into Vancouver over Victoria Island which delivered some great views out the window.

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And ZK-OKD parked up at Vancouver Airport.

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Overall the flight was awesome – the crew were amazing and the food and drinks were great. The level of service was significantly better than that which I’d experience in several recent Air New Zealand business class trips on the 767, which does feature different crew. They  were certainly a lot friendlier, and more attentive. This does however lead to the fundamental problem Air New Zealand has at present, and that’s differing levels of service, and different products across the fleet. This is something that won’t be solved for another couple of years until the 777-200 refit is complete, and the 767’s removed from service as they’re gradually replaced by the 787-900.

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Hotel Review – Hilton Burlingame San Francisco Airport Bayfront

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 29-Aug-2014 08:52

I’ve stayed at a few different hotels near San Francisco airport in recent years, but I’d never stayed at the Hilton. As I have Gold Status with hhonors, Hilton’s loyalty program, I thought I’d check it out.

The hotel is located only a few miles from San Francisco airport and has plenty of parking both at the hotel, and at an airport long term parking lot which is located next door. As I was flying in and out of San Francisco International Airport, I took advantage of their free hotel shuttle which runs from the airport. The market for accommodation near the airport is a very competitive one, with free shuttles the norm for all hotels. These shuttles are all run by private transportation companies rather than the hotels themselves, and as most of the big hotel chains feature several of their hotel brands near the airport, the shuttle will typically serve a number of hotels. Shuttle pickup areas are outside each of the four terminals at SFO. I waited for around 15 minutes for the shuttle to arrive, a timeframe that’s fairly typical of other recent experiences.

Upon arrival at the hotel I was greeted at the front desk by a super friendly staff member and check-in was a very quick process. Due to my hhonors Gold status I was upgraded to a room on the Executive Floors, and a request to change to a room with an airport runway view was quickly processed after discussing with another staff member what free rooms would have the best view. The hotel was very busy with a number of people checking in, and a function that was also on at the same time.

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The room was a nice size, with a King size bed, great desk space, good size TV with all channels being digital. Nothing annoys me more in a hotel that a TV system with analogue content, often with video that’s not even in the correct aspect ratio. WiFi coverage and performance was good, and as a hhonors Gold member I receive free internet at all Hilton hotels. Hilton take pride in their bathroom products, and it’s safe to say I do have a nice collection now! :-) The room also featured a window that could be opened.

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And the view out my room window of the the threshold of runway 28L and 28R at SFO.

Executive floor rooms at any Hilton location include access to the Hilton Executive Lounge. This lounge offers a good place to work with access to PCs, newspapers, and food and drinks throughout the day. Breakfast is served in the morning and canapés and drinks (with a cash bar) in the evening. At other times of the day soft drinks, water, and light snacks and cookies are available.

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I stopped by briefly to snack on the canapés before heading out to enjoy the beautiful evening. The selection was fairly typical of a US platter, with a great vege selection, fruit, cheeses and bread. If you were simply after a light dinner, it could easily fill the spot.

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The hotel features a well equipped gymnasium and indoor poor, and a bar area and restaurant on the ground floor. The bar was quite busy when I stopped by with a number of airline crews (there seemed to be a lot staying at this hotel) eating at the restaurant.

The executive floor rooms feature a turndown service which is still something I really love in a hotel. Coming back to find nice chocolates by my bed at night is always going to win a chocoholic such as myself over!

The bed was a very comfortable Hilton bed, with great sheeting and pillows. The hotel doesn’t appear to offer a pillow menu, but with the number on offer on the bed there was no need. Noise from the airport wasn’t an issue, but traffic noise from the nearby freeway could be faintly heard, but was certainly nowhere near loud enough to cause any issues. My only real complaint about the room was the air conditioning and ventilation system. A loud extractor fan in the bathroom that couldn’t be switched off meant I had to sleep with the bathroom door shut. Likewise the air conditioning system in the room itself was so noisy that sleeping with it on would be virtually impossible. Luckily the room wasn’t hot, so there was no need for this to be on.

I woke up feeling refreshed and after a great shower with good water pressure I headed to the Executive Lounge to check out the breakfast options. While it’s no substitute for a full buffet breakfast, the food selection on offer was great with cereal, yoghurt, fruit, break, pastries, eggs and sausages on offer. It was enough to leave me feeling very content.

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I checked out of the hotel after breakfast and left my bags there for the day to head into San Francisco for the day before my evening flight back to New Zealand. Access to public transport from the hotel is a little tricky due to it’s location. The easiest access to the BART subway system is from the airport (which you can get to via the free shuttle), or from Milbrae station which is a short taxi ride away. Closest access to the Caltrain is from Burlingame station which can be accessed by a free shuttle bus that runs between several nearby hotels and downtown Burlingame throughout the day, or once again via taxi or rideshare service such as Uber (which is cheaper than a taxi).

Overall staying at the hotel was a great experience, and the front desk and bell staff were all very pleasant to deal with. I’ve grown fond of Hilton in recent years, and this experience has certainly added to my positive experiences with the brand.



Do Jetstar employ PR people who don’t understand graphs?

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 27-Aug-2014 10:36

The people over at Jetstar posted a graph on their Twitter account his morning. Clearly the intention was to show that they’re better than Air New Zealand when it comes to on-time performance. I’m not quite sure if it really does show that.

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It’s no secret that Air New Zealand have had terrible on-time performance across their main trunk routes in recent times. These problems have existed for a number of reasons, not but least

A) The move from 737 to A320 aircraft with 38 more seats. Meeting 30 minute turnaround times for some domestic flights has been a challenge. But Jetstar operate A320 aircraft as well you may say – but the key being Air NZ average passenger loadings on their flights are significantly higher than Jetstar. While not the sole cause, in conjunction with the following it’s lead to major problems in recent months.

B) Jetstar operate strict timeframes for gate closure – be on the plane 15 minutes before your flight or you’ll miss it. Air New Zealand aren’t quite so strict, something that customers may like, but ultimately it can cause delays.

C) Koru Lounges. Jetstar don’t have airport lounges in New Zealand. This means passengers are waiting at the gate rather than in the lounge. With many travellers preferring to wait in the lounge until the last minute, it ultimately has the ability to cause delays.

D) Delays at Wellington airport due to screening. Due to no centralised screening for jet services at Wellington airport many passengers waiting in the lounge until the last minute and all scramble to be screened, which can cause delays.

E) Air New Zealand operate significantly more services than Jetstar.

So the graph shows what everybody already knows. Air NZ lead the way in on-time performance but slipped. A lot of work in recent months is clearly shown in these results, and it shows that on-time performance from Air New Zealand is back to where it was. I’m no PR person, but releasing information showing the massive improvements your competitor is making seems a little strange. It’s great of Jetstar to point that out to the industry.



Flight Review NZ7

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 27-Aug-2014 08:52

Anybody out there who loves planes knows that the 747 has truly earned the title of Queen of the skies. The plane that revolutionised long haul travel has been a mainstay of global airline fleets for over three decades, but with increasing fuel costs it’s becoming increasingly less common at airports around the world as it’s being replaced by  newer, more fuel efficient aircraft.

Over the past few years Air New Zealand have retired most of their 747-400 fleet, and has a single 747-400 still flying. This aircraft is scheduled to fly it’s last flight as NZ7 from San Francisco to Auckland on September 10th. With this in mind I purposely booked my flight home from San Francisco so I could have possibly my last flight in what I still regard as the coolest plane in the skies.

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I arrived at the airport a little earlier than usual, and was greeted by ZK-NBV as I departed the BART station at the airport. Check-in at San Francisco (SFO) was a  very smooth process with only a single person in front of my in the premium queue. TSA queues at US airports are often a nightmare, but I was through this in around 10 minutes and a few minutes later arrived at the Singapore Airlines lounge which is used by Air New Zealand in the absence of their own Koru lounge.

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Food and beverage selections were typical for an airline lounge at a US airport – which is quite different to what people would normally expect from a regular Koru lounge. A selection of salads, cheese, vege platter, potato crisps, a pretzel mix and cookies made up the selection, with some filled rolls on the side. The liquor selection was also fairly average, but at least featured Tiger beer which is a little more exciting than drinking Bud Lite. Bathrooms are at each end of the lounge and two of these feature showers, with the only downside being that these are both shared with bathrooms so take these out of action while in use. The lounge became quite busy, but still had seating available. The lounge itself closes at 2045, 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time of NZ7 of 2115. It’s only a short walk from the lounge to the gate normally used by Air New Zealand.

Boarding commenced a few minutes late, but as I had left the lounge earlier I was near the front of the queue to board.

As this would possibly be my last 747 flight I decided I had to make a final flight on the upper deck, so flew Premium Economy in seat 22A (which coincidently is the same same seat I flew on last year in my NZ8 review). Row 22 is an exit row featuring unlimited legroom, but does torment anybody sitting here with a great view of the lie flat Business Premier seats!

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There are many similarities between Premium Economy and Business Premier on Air New Zealand. Both receive noise cancelling headphones (which are significantly better than regular headphones, but pale in comparison to my Bose QC15s), an amenity kit, and similar food and wine menus. The most significant difference being that Premium Economy meals are served in regular airline food trays, whereas Business Premier meals are fully plated up.

After we’d reached cruise altitude menus and hot towels were distributed around the cabin.

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To begin – a salad of crab and smoked salmon, washed down with a glass of Mumm Champagne.

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Followed by seared miso glazed cod (and another glass of Mumm!). Desert was a strawberry and ginger mousse. All three courses were delicious. Flying in premium cabins means premium alcohol offerings, and the crew seemed very happy keeping peoples glasses full.

After dinner I decided to check out the in flight entertainment system, and that’s when things started to go astray. Due to the age of this aircraft it still has a rather ancient non touch screen Rockwell Collins system which only features a 4:3 aspect ratio rather than 16:9 widescreen. On this particular plane it was certainly showing it’s age. I’d heard from other friends who had flown on this aircraft in recent weeks that the system was experiencing problems, and it’s safe to say that was an understatement. A full system reboot didn’t fix the problems which include skipping and loss of video and audio sync, and the system was pretty much unusable as a result. Lucky I had content on my laptop to watch instead.

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The IFE if it had been working – a good selection of movies, music, radio channels and games. The same Rockwell Collins system is present on Air New Zealand’s fleet of 777-200 aircraft, but these are currently in the process of being refitted with new seats and a new Panasonic eXlite IFE system.

After a good sleep I woke up not long before the breakfast service commenced. Being a little peckish I checked out the snack bar which is available throughout the flight for Premium Economy and Business Premier customers. This featured grapes, apples, vege crisps, Whittakers chocolate bars, muesli bars, Cookie Time chocolate chip cookies and bottled water.

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Breakfast was a bit of a mixed bag. The fruit was nice, but the croissant was a little squashed and not flaky. The quesadilla tasted great, but to be honest was a little too greasy for a meal at 0400 in the morning.

Our arrival into Auckland was smooth and there were no delays with priority bags which were starting to appear just as I arrived at the baggage carousel. Within a few minutes I’d checked my bags at the domestic transfer desk and was on my way to the domestic terminal to wait for my flight to Wellington.

Overall the flight was a good one, however it’s very clear that this is one plane that’s well and truly served it’s time and is due for replacement. The same crews that crew the 747 also crew the other long haul 777-300 and 777-200 aircraft so the level of service is the same, however the fit out of a newer 777-300 aircraft is superior in every way, and the Panasonic IFE system on the newer 777-300 aircraft is so superior it’s like comparing night and day.

 

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RIP ZK-NBV

October 1998 – September 2014

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Average NZ broadband usage hits 41GB/month

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 22-Jul-2014 09:50

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that the Commerce Commission last year announced plans to cut the price of regulated xDSL based broadband products in NZ. UBA (Unbundled Bitstream Access) is the base Chorus wholesale product that every ISP uses to deliver xDSL based broadband (ADSL, ADSL2+ and VDSL2) in New Zealand.

In recent months there has been a lot of discussion within the NZ telco space about Chorus plans to offer a new commercial xDSL based product. This commercial product will offer vastly superior performance than the current regulated offering, but will come at a price premium. Opinion in the industry is split over these moves – some see it as very smart move by Chorus to offer end users an enhanced product; some see it as a cynical move by Chorus to make price cuts irrelevant and force ISPs to pay extra (in effect maintaining the current price) for Boost products to meet the growing demand from data hungry customers.

My personal view is that it’s proof the Commerce Commission are inept and lack any real understanding of the broadband space they’re currently trying to regulate. Essentially they’ve been pwned by Chorus who’s plan is to offer a commercial xDSL offering to ISPs capable of delivering an average of 5Mbps per user over a 15 minute period, while users of the Commerce Commission regulated offering are stuck with an outdated regulated product with a regulated design target of 32kbps per user delivered over a 15 minute period. The fact the Commerce Commission publically see no issue with a handover dimensioning target of 32kbps per user in 2014 shows a real lack of understanding of the industry they’re overseeing.

The Commerce Commission today released the latest Chorus submission on their Boost offerings, which you can read here.

In that submission where some very interesting stats on broadband usage and data caps in New Zealand which you can see below. Namely that:

Chorus stats now put the average NZ internet usage at 41GB per month as of mid 2014

And the following chart showing the mix of caps

 

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Air New Zealand announces gate to gate use of electronic devices

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 4-Jul-2014 11:42

I've never simply posted a press release on my blog before - but this is very exciting news. From the 16th July customer on selected Air New Zealand services will be able to use electronic devices that are switched to flight mode from gate to gate - there will be no requirement to power off these devices during takeoff and landing as is required at present.

All we need now is Air NZ inflight WiFi - which is something that has been rumored for some time with the launch last year of coverage in the South Pacific and the installation of a ground uplink station in Adelaide by Panasonic Aviation who provide Air NZ's Inflight Entertainment (IFE) system on their new aircraft.


Air New Zealand customers will be some of the first in the Asia Pacific region to be able to use their handheld portable electronic devices in non-transmitting mode for the entire duration of their flights following approval from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority. From 16 July the airline will allow the use of handheld portable electronic devices including tablets, smartphones, e-readers and mp3 players during all phases of flight provided the devices are in flight mode.  Previously customers could not use their devices during the taxi, take-off and landing phases of flight.

Initially this option will be available to customers travelling on domestic and international services operated by Airbus A320 and Boeing 787-9, 777-200 and 777-300 aircraft with plans to include Air New Zealand’s regional turbo prop and Boeing 767-300 fleets over time, subject to regulatory approval.

Air New Zealand’s General Manager Customer Experience Carrie Hurihanganui says extending the use of electronic devices to all phases of flight will further enhance the customer journey.
“We are living in a digital age where the majority of our customers use electronic devices while travelling.  Today’s announcement will give customers further freedom to use their handheld devices to take photos, listen to music or watch pre-loaded movies gate to gate.

“Air New Zealand prides itself on being a leader in innovation and technology and continues to actively explore what can be done to make the travel experience easier and more enjoyable for our customers.”
Last year the US Federal Aviation Administration published guidance allowing for the expanded use of portable electronic devices following analysis by experts from airlines, aircraft manufacturers, pilots associations, cabin crew and mobile technology manufacturers.



Flight Review – Air New Zealand NZ90 and NZ99

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 13-Jun-2014 20:34

I flew to Japan for a holiday for a couple of weeks late March and early April to see the cherry blossom bloom. I’d been meaning to post my Air New Zealand flight review for some time, but later is better than never! :-)

Air New Zealand fly two types of aircraft on the Auckland to Tokyo route, the 777-200ER (77E) and the 767-300ER (763). At the time of writing this the vast majority of flights are flown by the 767. The product offering between both aircraft varies quite significantly which is something that I’ll briefly discuss. I flew business class both ways on the 767.

The 767 offers two classes of travel – economy and business. The economy offering is a 7 abreast 2-3-2 configuration with most seats offering either 31” or 32” pitch as standard. Business class is a very dated product by modern standards consisting of old style non lie flat seats in a 6 abreast 2-2-2 configuration with 50” pitch. The seats are narrow and if you’re used to flying in business class with fully lie flat seats it’s safe to say you’ll be extremely disappointed. For day flights it’s an acceptable offering, but for long duration night flights it’s a pretty sub par offering for an airline in this day in age. The 763 features a Panasonic EFX inflight entertainment (IFE) system with 16:9 aspect ratio touch screens in every seat.

The 77E offers three classes of travel – economy, premium economy and business premier. The economy offering is a 9 abreast 3-3-3 configuration with between 31” and 33” pitch as standard on most seats. Premium economy is also a 9 abreast 3-3-3 configuration with significantly increased 41” seat pitch, better recline and upgraded food and drink offerings. The premium economy seats however are not significantly different that those in economy, you’re simply paying extra for more space and better dining. Business premier is a fully lie flat bed in a 4 abreast 1-2-1 configuration with each seat having aisle access. The 77E features a much older Rockwell Collins IFE system with 4:3 aspect ratio non touch screens.

Air New Zealand are currently in the process of upgrading it’s 77E fleet with the first aircraft due for completion in July, and the remainder by mid 2015. This will see brand new seats fitted throughout and a move to 10 abreast 3-4-3 economy (you’ll know what a sardine in a can feels like), an improved premium economy offering with better seats and new business premier seating still in the existing 1-2-1 configuration. The aircraft will also have the latest Panasonic eXLite IFE fitted.

Air New Zealand will be introducing their new new 787-900 Dreamliners onto the route as they progressively arrive from late 2014 to replace the 767 fleet which is being retired.

NZ90 Auckland to Tokyo Narita

NZ90 is a daytime flight from Auckland to Tokyo. I was seated in seat 4J for this leg. Row 4 is the last row in business class with a bulkhead behind it separating business and economy class. Having sat in this row a few times before I’m convinced that the recline in these seats is slightly less than other rows due to the bulkhead. Bassinette fitting are also at the very front of the economy cabin, so you do face some risk of noise from babies in this area.

On boarding I was welcomed by the crew and offered a pre-flight drink of orange juice or champagne. Being a champagne fan I felt it would have been rude to turn the offer down, especially as Air New Zealand serve Mumm which is a favourite of mine. Noise cancelling headsets, a bottle of water, and menus were also present on my seat. I’m not a huge fan on the noise cancelling headsets Air New Zealand offers (as I have my own headphones which are vastly superior) but they are certainly a step up from the regular headphones used throughput the plane for economy seats.

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After takeoff hot towels were handed out and another round of drinks handed out. Once again I felt it would have been rude to turn down another glass of Mumm. Tablecloths were then laid out in preparation for the breakfast service.

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I opted for the smoothie, fresh fruit, muesli and yoghurt to start with, all washed down by another glass of Mumm. :-)

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This was followed by hotcakes with a rhubarb compote and cream which was very yummy.

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After the breakfast service was over it was time to relax for a few hours. There is a great selection of music, movies and games on the IFE system that will cater to most people. There is a lot to see out the window during the flight with many island and atolls on the way.

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And of course crossing the Equator – something I always like to celebrate. I was a little tired of Mumm by then so opted for a Gin & Tonic. :-)

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An afternoon tea service commenced around this time. I opted for a raspberry lamington and sandwich. I did feel however that the food loadings for this service could have been better, my seat was at the end of the service and the pickings were a little slim.

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With just over 2 hours to go before out arrival into Tokyo the table cloths were again laid out and the dinner service commenced.

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The prawn starter is a favourite for Air New Zealand that I’ve had a number of times and it always goes down well, especially with yet another Mumm! A selection of warm bread is also on offer.

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I opted for chicken for the main course, washed down with a nice Pinot Noir. I love Japanese food so loved the ingredients, however the chicken was possibly just a little on the dry side.

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Which was nicely finished off with a green panna cotta which was absolutely  delicious.

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Throughout the flight a snack bar is also available, featuring fruit, bottled water, Whittakers chocolate bars, muesli bars, pretzels and vegetable crisps.

NZ99 Tokyo Narita to Auckland

NZ99 is a night time flight from Tokyo Narita to Auckland. I was seated in seat 1A  for this leg. Row 1 offers slightly  less legroom due to the aircraft bulkhead, but I have no complaints with this and find row 1 the best seats on the plane as you’re not trapped in your seat unlike other window seats when the seat in front is fully  reclined and the IFE monitor in use.

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It wasn’t long after we’d departed that the tablecloths came out again and the tough decision (it really  is a big #firstworldproblem) of deciding what to eat from such a delicious looking menu.

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To begin we had a Japanese style starter. This tasted delicious, however if you don’t like Japanese food you may  have second thoughts, however having visited Japan several times now I’ve become a huge fan of the food so it really hit the spot.

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And then the tough decision on what to have as a main. Yes you can eat a burger anyway, but the novelty of having a burger on a plane was just too tempting. Air New Zealand deserve a lot of credit for getting this right – the bun was perfect and the burger patty tasted amazing. It was very interesting to see how popular the burger was, I’d pick probably 50% of the cabin had it for dinner.

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And after finishing the burger and another nice glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir it was time for desert. Unfortunately  the gateau had already gone so I opted for the ice cream.

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It was then time to try and get some sleep being an overnight flight, but I struggled to get more than an hour or so, finding the seats quite uncomfortable. I instead opted to watch a few movies and spent a while chatting to the crew who had very little to do when most of the cabin was asleep. The usual snack bar was present so a couple of Whittakers chocolate bars really hit the spot.

A few hours out from Auckland the breakfast service commenced.

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First up was the smoothie, followed by fresh fruit, muesli and fruit yogurt accompanied by a croissant with strawberry jam.

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Followed by a delicious tasting poached eggs with perfectly crispy bacon.

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Business class isn’t just about sitting at the front of the plane with better seats – it’s also about delivering an in flight fine dining experience!

Overall both flights were very pleasant ones, however the service wasn’t without fault and to me the 767 crew (who only  fly on the 767 aircraft) didn’t seem quite as “polished” as long haul crews I’ve had on previous 777 and 747 flights. While we all accept that New Zealander’s can be very informal at times I felt both crews just seemed to lack a little in the way of professionalism that visitors to New Zealand who may not have flown business class on Air New Zealand may not be used to. Overall the food was fantastic, and the only area that is really  lacking is the aircraft – I was fully  aware I was flying on the 767, but I’m certainly aware of passengers on this route who have expressed shock at having such an old school business class offering and no lie flat seats for such a long flight.



Flight Review - NZ9

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 8-Jun-2014 16:26

I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging in recent months but a 10 day holiday in Hawaii has given me some motivation to get a little closer to finishing some longer posts I’d started writing. What better way to get back into things than a flight review - I love to travel, and to me getting to or from your destination is a major part of the fun!

At present Air New Zealand are operating 767-300 aircraft on the Honolulu sector. While I love flying on the 767 it’s safe to say these aircraft have seen better days and are starting to look pretty tired. Air New Zealand’s remaining 767 aircraft are all being replaced by 787 Dreamliner’s that start to arrive in the coming months, and all 767s will be retired from the fleet over the next 18 months. The 767 offers an old style Business Class offering (no lie flat) and Economy class. It does not feature any Premium Economy seating. Having flown Business Class on the 767 on a number of occasions it’s safe to say it’s a very tired offering by modern standards, particularly for night flights as it doesn’t offer lie flat seats. You do however get the great Business Class food and drink options. If you’ve got Airpoints Dollars to burn on an upgrade it’s worth it, but if you’re paying full price you’d have to question whether it’s worth it.

Check-in at Honolulu airport was a breeze. There was a separate Premium check-in queue but just over 2 hours out from the flight as there were very few people around. Once check-in was completed it was a quick walk to the TSA security screening. Anybody who flies in or to the US regularly knows how bad this can be. As a HVC with Air New Zealand (Airpoints Gold) I was able to use the Gold priority queue. From joining the queue to being screened was around 15 minutes, I’d estimate it’d probably be another 10-15 minutes for those not in the Gold queue.

Air New Zealand don’t have a Koru lounge at Honolulu airport so they share the JAL Sakura Lounge which is also used by American Airlines and all other OneWorld airlines. This is by no means the world’s best lounge, but it serves it’s purpose. It also does mean you don’t have to wait in the non air conditioned airport (which is all open air) as access to the air conditioned  gate lounge is only available once the arriving NZ10 flight has landed and all passengers offloaded which is roughly 1hr before departure. It can be quite uncomfortable sitting around in the airport in the evening if it’s humid.

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The design and styling of the lounge is nothing amazing but there is plenty of seating as there are very other flights at this time of the evening. Being a JAL lounge it’s pretty basic, as are many Japanese airport lounges. The biggest downside of the lounge for many travellers is the lack of any shower facilities, so make sure you don’t come to the airport after a day at the beach looking for one before your flight. Toilets are also not located in the lounge, but in the hallway just outside the lounge entrance.

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If you’ve come to the JAL lounge expecting a gourmet meal you’ve got the wrong lounge – but the offering is fine if you’ve just after pre flight snacks. An assortment of sandwiches, cut fruit, a vegetable platter, soup, bread, snack mix and cheese & crackers were on offer offer. You can wash this down with the usual range of juice, soft drinks, liquor and beer, with Steinlager Pure being offered in the lounge for Air New Zealand flights.

Pre-boarding was announced and it was about a 5 minute walk to the gate. I’ve flown from Honolulu several times and announcements have always been made before actual boarding has started, so you don’t necessarily need to rush off immediately.

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I was located in seat in the front of the economy cabin in 13B. The 767 features Business Class and Economy product but like other short haul Pacific flights offers the Seats to Suit options – meaning you can buy a Seat only, Seat+Bag, Works (seat+bag+meal) or Works Deluxe which also guarantees a neighbour free policy. As the 767 Economy has a 2-3-2 seat plan Works Deluxe customers are located in the middle of the forward economy cabin with the middle seat remaining free. The outer seats in this cabin are Frequent Flyer seats available to high value customers with Koru, Gold or Gold Elite status. Seats 10AB are ideal in this cabin as they offer more leg room due to the pilot rest area located in front of the cabin. Leg room is no different however to the remainder of the Economy cabin.

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The 767 features seat back IFE in every seat with a selection of music and movies. On the Seats to Suit flights movies are not available to passengers who purchase seat only fares (but can be purchased in flight if you have a credit card). The Panasonic IFE system on both the 767 and shorthaul Airbus A320 is a very unreliable system that’s prone to issues. In probably 20 flights on 767 and A320 aircraft in the past 18 months I’ve experienced at least 4 or 5 full system reboots midflight performed by the crew to resolve issues, and it’s very common for crew to have to reboot individual seats due to issues. If you experience IFE problems make sure you let the crew know as a reboot will typically fix this.

Pushback was a couple of minutes past our scheduled departure time. Our departure was runway 8R which is known locally as the reef runway. This is a long taxi (around 15 minutes) from the gate but offers fantastic views of Waikiki from the left side of the plane.

Once we had reached cruise the service began

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On offer for dinner was the chicken or the beef. Neither were particularly inspiring. I had the chicken pasta and didn’t finish it because (I’m being brutally honest here!) it just tasted terrible. The salad was nice, as was the melon ice cream. A bread roll would have been nice. Followed just behind was the drinks trolley offering the usual selection of drinks. It was interesting to see Air New Zealand now offering Moa Beer on flights but with an $8 per bottle surcharge. You’d have to be pretty stupid to pay this for a very average beer (I wouldn’t drink a Moa even if you paid me $8).

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Breakfast was scrambled egg with chicken sausage, tomato, potato wedges and a muffin. Not a bad offering.

For customers who haven’t chosen to purchase a meal a number of snacks are available for purchase. Coffee, tea and water are complementary.

Our arrival into Auckland was on time however there was a delay with bags, something that be common early morning with a number of flights from the US, China and Perth all arriving around the same time. Overall the flight was a good one with good crew with good service.

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sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
Wellington
New Zealand


I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl trixbox, PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix and AsteriskNOW)
  -Polycom
  -Cisco
  -Linksys
  -Patton
  -Zyxel
  -Snom
  -Sangoma
  -Audiocodes

*Telecommunications/Broadband
  -xDSL deployments
  -WiMAX
  -GSM/WCDMA

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
   
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.


+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.


You can contact me here or by email at [email protected]

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