Air New Zealand has a near monopoly position on most domestic routes in New Zealand. The airline earns on average NZD 20 cents per seat kilometer flown from their domestic operations – that is about double what they see in international operations.
The domestic terminal at Auckland Airport is a low-key, yet efficient affair. To my surprise, you don’t even need a boarding pass or ID to get through security. Boarding does require a boarding pass but no ID either.
The whole set-up is very informal – in a good way. Air New Zealand also offers a lounge for domestic flights that is open to Star Alliance Gold members and Premium passengers. The airline does not offer a business class cabin on domestic flights but some tickets offer more flexibility (for a price).
There is a grand total of one coffee shop in the whole terminal but the quality is great and there is no need for another one – I guess. It’s a bit like flying in Norway.
There is a series of announcements about how strict the airline is with carry-ons – only one carry-on and 7kg cannot be exceeded. There are luggage testers and scales all over the terminal – clearly, the airline means business. However, when I boarded with my bag just above 7kg nobody even looked at it and I was cleared to go after scanning my online boarding pass in seconds.
The A320 interior is a nice leather configuration but could be any airline’s economy class – there is no real distinguishing factor. The early morning flight from Auckland ended up being completely full, mostly with Chinese tour groups ready to explore Queenstown.
Since Queenstown Airport is typically approached from the south, you get wonderful scenic views over Milford Sound and the mountains to the west and southwest. The last 20 minutes of the flight was just fantastic, with the snow-capped mountains giving way to the crystal blue lake.
The return flight caught a three-hour delay, as the airport was shrouded in thick fog.
There were constant announcements – even to the point that it was too much until we finally boarded and took off toward the lake and then there was another set of beautiful views to be had.