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.
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.
I opted for the smoothie, fresh fruit, muesli and yoghurt to start with, all washed down by another glass of Mumm. :-)
This was followed by hotcakes with a rhubarb compote and cream which was very yummy.
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.
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. :-)
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.
With just over 2 hours to go before out arrival into Tokyo the table cloths were again laid out and the dinner service commenced.
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.
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.
Which was nicely finished off with a green panna cotta which was absolutely delicious.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First up was the smoothie, followed by fresh fruit, muesli and fruit yogurt accompanied by a croissant with strawberry jam.
Followed by a delicious tasting poached eggs with perfectly crispy bacon.
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.
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