After my great experience with Air New Zealand Business Class from San Francisco to Auckland, I was excited to be onboard the same product (but different airplane) again for my flight to Brisbane.
Immigration and Security at the International Terminal in Auckland looked intimidating with long lines but they moved quickly and it took less than 20 minutes to clear both (there are signs for a Priority line but it isn’t really enforced anywhere).
After my rather mediocre experience at the Air New Zealand Business Class Lounge Auckland, I walked down to the gate at the scheduled boarding time. There wasn’t any activity yet and everyone was just relaxing (note that’s what the screens suggest everywhere at the airport – and yes, it works!) Boarding would commence 15 minutes later and was fairly orderly, though everyone just starting getting into two lines after Priority boarding.
The business class cabin in the 777-200 is much smaller than the 777-300 ER and does not feature the mini-cabin behind the galley. The seats are exactly the same, though this plane was older and the seats were definitely more worn and dirtier. Mine was especially dirty, with stains everywhere. It looked liked it hadn’t been cleaned with a wet towel for at least a few weeks.
Since this was just a three-hour flight, no bedding, sleeping pillows or blankets are loaded into the cabin (which makes the cabin look more clutter-free). The cabin was filled to the last seat, including a little toddler just in the seat next to me. Despite the parents’ efforts, that little guy would be shrieking loudly almost non-stop for the next 4 hours. Talk about a happy flight!
The entertainment system, safety video, everything was the same as the version I had flown a few days earlier from San Francisco, though these 777-200 are not equipped with WiFi.
There was a pre-departure drink (no alcohol for me in the morning) and we got off the ground 30 minutes after our scheduled departure time. However, the winds of the Tasman Strait weren’t bad and we would still be on time for our scheduled arrival.
Service started quickly with a smoothie that was great. This was followed by fruit, granola, and yogurt (I did not like any of them).
The main course was the shortcake with blueberry for me. Frankly, it looked disgusting and overly sweet. However, it tasted better than it looked. It was edible but nothing great.
Air New Zealand doesn’t carry an espresso maker and the filtered coffee was pretty bad.
While ‘lie-flat’, the downside of the Air New Zealand seat is that it requires a flight attendant to make your bed and it requires extra bedding. We did not have that loaded and you can recline only about 30 degrees by yourself. This is quite a limitation if you plan to sleep because you are basically still upright. You are paying for a lie-flat seat but you can’t get to it – you are getting just a recliner seat.
The cabin crew were way less attentive than my experience with ‘Alfred’ on my prior flight. There was no friendly interaction or polished style. It was basically an economy experience with a bigger seat.
We landed straight into Brisbane Airport with just one small turn – in fact, we barely turned the whole flight. I’m always fascinated by these long flights where there is literally no turning – like the world is flat.
I was disappointed by this business class experience. Indeed I had high expectations, given my prior flight with Air New Zealand that was about perfect. I can’t say it was terrible either but everything seemed old, tacky and low quality, from the crowded immigration, crowded lounge with low-quality items, old seat, less than perfect service and a toddler who gave me a headache the entire flight.
Air New Zealand is dropping the codeshare with Virgin Australia so they will rely more on their planes to Australia. I hope they get this under control.
On my way back, I was in the back of the plane in regular economy. Of course, my expectations were much different.
Priority Pass has Corretto Cafe & Bar signed up at Brisbane Airport and AUD 36 in free food awaits you per Priority Pass cardholder. Corretto has great coffee and a lovely modern menu that makes it easy to spend AUD 36 per person in seconds.
Air New Zealand has a huge check-in area but it is all automated – only two attendants were responsible for checking in 300 passengers (a full 777) on this day. However, it seemed hardly anybody needed them anyways as everybody used the machines to get their boarding pass. It did not work for me but within minutes the agents had it all sorted out for me. Very nice.
Boarding was easy and efficient. My fare did not include any food or bag but nobody worries much about carry-on bags today. The boarding pass had that same stern reminder about 7kg but the gate agents did not single out anyone with their scales.
The older 777-200 was visibly tired and had seen better days. Almost all seats were filled this sunny afternoon in Brisbane. I felt there was a lot of legroom for economy but the Skycouch pad really limits the way you can use the space behind/under your seat. I found it annoying and would much rather not have that option to push up my calves slightly but gain more foot space.
The entertainment system has the same content loaded as in business class. It’s a big display and if you want to see a movie it’s plenty big enough to enjoy it. There were complimentary headsets on every seat when I walked in.
We were in for some major shaking as we landed into a storm moving in on Auckland. Some of the bumps were pretty miserable, with the many older (and very young) members of the audience shaken.
Given that Virgin Australia runs narrow-bodies across the Tasman Strait, this was a decent flight. It was on time and everyone made a useful effort to get us where we wanted. There was no nonsense involved. Economy seemed much better value (not because it was cheaper) than my business class flight a few days prior.