Air New Zealand is deploying the newly fitted Boeing 747-400 aircraft with individual pods in Business class, and enhanced in-flight entertainment in Coach class (including a LCD screen for each seat in the aircraft).
The route Auckland to San Francisco is the first one to have these new features, and I couldn’t miss this new high tech stuff.
First, the Business class is now completely different – no more pairs of seats. Everyone has an individual pod, with a seat that changes into a flat bed on the press of a button. When in flat mode it looks like a cocoon, really nice stuff. The tray is at least twice as large as before, and the foot rest can be used by another passenger as a small seat – for example if you have someone dining with you. Very nice, you can seat face-to-face.
There are LED lights at head height now, on each side of the pod. They dim on touch, and can be directed anywhere inside the small private space. There’s also an AC power plug – not like the US ones, but real power adapters, so you can plug your laptop or any other power cord directly. It was nice, because I bought a digital camera and was able to charge the batteries during the 12:30 hour flight.
The in-flight entertainment is new, and has a huge variety of movies and TV programmes available (even episodes of 24). But when they were serving the pre-flight drinks (yes!) I noticed my individual display rebooting. And the display was showing a Windows CE Bootloader, with information about the station, server IP addresses, etc. Hacker paradise?
Also, when processing a command, the Wait sign was the same small round symbol I am used to see on my Windows Portable Media Center.
After a good sleep, and just before breakfast, I tried to return my flat bed to a seat configuration – but it didn’t work. The buttons were off and we actually needed someone to reset my seat. Yes, sounds like a BSOD on an airplane seat!
The food was nice, but I had better in previous flights. The wine selection is good, but not as varied as I remember.
Since this is only the first month these new planes are in operation some of the cabin crew had to seek help from others when playing with some of these new gadget seat. Shame they did not release in-flight Wi-Fi.