Air New Zealand has been winning a lot awards recently.  Conde Nast and Airline Tatings gave them a “5 Star Rating”.  Interestingly enough, Air New Zealand is only rated a 4 Star Airline by Skytrax.  Team GTE recently flew the Air New Zealand Business Premier Class long haul from Auckland to San Francisco to experience the airline ourselves.

Pre Flight

Overall Grade: A

Our Air New Zealand Business Premier Class trip started out off with an incredible pre flight experience. Surprisingly, one of the best we have experienced.  Instead of having to stand in a long queue to get through a self serve check in maze for economy, business class passengers get access to an exclusive premium check-in lounge area where you are offered a personalized check in service.  It is similar to checking into a 5 star hotel, where you are seated down at a table and the attendant takes care of everything for you.  There are even charging stations for you to charge your device while waiting.  Once checked in, the host escorts you to the other side of the lounge where you can quickly drop your bags off.

This lounge is not only available to business class travelers, but those flying on premium economy, along with Star Alliance Gold members. So, even if you aren’t flying business class you still have a a chance to access this benefit.

Definitely would not be able to navigate this mess
Now this is what we’re talking about
Personalized check-in. Just sit back and relax
Checking out that silver fern livery before takeoff

Quick Tip – Always go for the luggage wrapping if the airport provides it! It really helps keep your suitcase in better condition.  Especially, if you have an aluminum suitcase.  The ~ $5 you spend on it per trip can save you some extra dents and missing parts in the future.

Putting some protection on the trusty Rimowa

Layout

Overal Grade: B-

When you arrive in the Air New Zealand Business Premier Class cabin, the first thing that comes to mine is WOW.  The open seating 1-2-1 format is definitely something that that is a bit unique.  At first glance, the seats seem quite small, but the seats are 22″ in width and stretich out to 79.5″ in length.  Instead of the standard “cubbies”, the seats are in an angled in a herringbone, with minimal screens from your neighbors.  There is even an ottoman for you to lay your foot down or for “guests”, which surprisingly quite a few people were using to sit on.

There are 44 business class seats split into two sections.  7 rows in the front and 4 rows behind the galley/ toilets. There are 3 toilets, all of which are the size of a standard economy toilet.  There are barely an additional amenities in the lavatories.  Sadly, not even the nice wallpaper and soothing background music they play inside can save the terrible toilet situation.

Quick Tip:  DEFINITELY choose the first 7 rows in Business class, since everyone boards the same entrance as the rest of the passengers.  We recommend that you choose the first 7 rows so that you don’t get hit with all the economy traffic going through the second half of the business class cabin. This will spare you getting hit by flying backpacks and suitcases.

Where’s the privacy?!

Lighting

Overal Grade: B

The cabin lighting was “cool”.  It felt like a club-like atmosphere (or like flying Virgin) and the lighting is consistent throughout from the check in experience, lounge, and flight. There is so much “twilight pink” (it looks purple) lighting that we wonder why Air New Zealand didn’t paint their airplane purple.  Their planes are white and navy blue, but we rarely saw any of the navy featured.

On the seats, they have very limited seating, with just the main lighting being the weak overhead yellowish lights.  A small led light on the cup holder tray is present but you won’t be able to use that to read or work.  Air New Zealand Business Premier Class is lacking on some of the more useful lights behind the seat like on other airlines like United Polaris Business Class or Singapore Airlines Business Class.  All the best airline seating lighting that we have flown seem to have at lat 3-4 different lights situated all around the cabin.

Everything is twilight pink

 

Pretty useless LED lamp

Seating

Overal Grade: B-

The chalk leather seats are quite comfortable but are a whopping 6″ more narrow in width than Singapore Airline Business Class seats.  From an optics standpoint, all the premium business class seats have more of a private cabin/cubicle feel.  Even United switched over to the cubicle design with their Polaris business class product.  The privacy is what is lacking the most.  You can see everyone sitting across from you while sitting and sleeping.  Not to mention, you can see their feet propped on the ottoman (Hope they are wearing socks!)

The seats itself has limited reclining functions.  You can only just lay the seat down with some minor lumbar adjustment.  The seats are lacking some of the other adjustability like just being able to adjust the upper or lower portions of the seat.

Looks a little… cramped
Well hello there amenity kit.
The remote is quite far to reach
Bare bones controls for your seats
Great view of your feet (and your neighbors)
This table takes a rocket scientist to put back in

Storage and Accessories

Overal Grade: C-

Air New Zealand Business Premier Class features some of the worst storage that team GTE has ever flown on.  There is very limited in-seat storage besides the the section where the inflight material is located and underneath the ottoman.  There is pretty much no place for you to store your laptop or even noise canceling head headphones.  On top of this, even though the Boeing 777-300ER features overhead storage in the middle rows, most of the storage is taken up by the sleeping duvet and blankets.  Our flight attendant did not allow me to store those items behind my seat(although we saw many other people do it).   All airlines that provides ample storage always have at least one additional cubby or even a flat area for you to place your items.

From a design standpoint, there is so much open space behind the seats and also on the side of the seat.  We sat through the 12 hour flight wondering why the engineers didn’t try to maximize the open space to put more functional aspects into the seats like storage or a table.

Regarding accessories, there was just your standard power and usb outlet. They were also in an area where it wasn’t that convenient for you to say, leave your laptop charging.

Plenty of overhead space right?
But WAIT. When you open the the bins, they are filled with this
The only additional storage option you got. At least the water is artesian water

Amenities

Overal Grade: B-

Upon arriving at our seats, there was a a full amenity key in a sleek leather pouch on top of the ottoman.  The amenity kit consisted of socks, toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs, lip balm, hand cream, pen, and a mint.  Surprisingly, they did not provide slippers on the flight.  At least they had team GTE’s #1 most useful item in airline amenity kits, which is a pen (to fill out your immigration forms).

Throughout the plane, including the toilets, amenities were bare.  There was nothing different from the economy toilets besides actual cloth towels in the business class section.

Air New Zealand Business Premier amenity kit
The business class lavatories are quite bare
Interesting wallpaper

Sleeping

Overal Grade: B+

Air New Zealand Business Premier Class has fully lie flat beds.  A flight attendant will make your bed for you.  They add a memory foam mattress, a couple of pillows, and a duvet.  Not sure if you can actually do this yourself, but the flight attendants were insistent on having them make the bed for you.  We recommend you go use the lavatory or grab a snack/drink while they are making the bed.

The sleep is actually quite nice, as we were surprised how long the bed as.  There was ample leg room that anyone of normal height can comfortable fit in.  The mattress was quite comfortable and pillows were extremely fluffy.  The good sleep made the lack of storage room because of all the bedding… almost acceptable.

Could have just done with one pillow to save space
Ready to sleep!

Food

Overal Grade: B-

The food overall was OK.  Nothing special.  We were disappointed that Air New Zealand didn’t offer any of their country’s signature lamb meat or meat pies!   There was no special food booking for us to try.  the “special orders” were more for those with religious or dietary restrictions.  So, there is nothing like the “Book The Cook” options like Singapore Airlines provides.  Below is a compilation of all the food that was provided on our flight.

Preflight

Billecart-Salmon Brut NV

Post Takeoff

Appetizer

Smoked fish with roasted beets and beet jelly, saffron aioli, and edamame beans

Main Course

Roasted chicken Marbella style, creamed corn with polenta, sautéed kale, green olive, and mustard salsa

Desert

Blueberry vanilla panna cotta with blueberry gel

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with homemade beans, crispy bacon, and toasted grain muffin

Light snacks

Overall Service Level

Overal Grade: B

Koru print

In general, New Zealanders are quite friendly people.  The overall vibe of the plane is definitely a bit more relaxed than the American airlines.  The female flight attendants are dressed in traditional koru print made by Treslise Cooper.  Our male flight attendant wasn’t the friendliest but we’ll give him a free pass as we’ve seen worse service on other flights.

Regarding the actual service, it wasn’t anything special.  We were bit surprised there was a bit of a language barrier when speaking with the flight attendants, especially since we all spoke english.  From our end, we requested for “turndown service”, which seems to be a normal word and is formally used on airlines like United.  Immediately our flight attendant said “You must be from America eh?  We just call it making the bed”.   From their end, when the flight attendants ask you if you want coffee or tea, once we requested coffee, she asked “anything else?”  Coming from a half sleep daze, that could be confused as if they are asking if you wanted an additional tea or juice or something, but instead, that meant if you want cream or sugar in your coffee.  Overall, we found it quite entertaining.

Conclusion

Overal Grade: B-

In conclusion, we found nothing special about the Air New Zealand Business Premier Class product.  Nothing besides the spectacular pre boarding process and the “world’s coolest safety video” was memorable.  We did find it nice that the airline had quite a few cultural touches from the koru print uniforms to the silver fern livery painted on the plane.

For the frequent business traveler, the experience isn’t that great to want to do this flight 3-4 times a month.  For the occasional business class traveler who either would spent years saving up their credit card points or wanted to splurge on a special trip, the Air New Zealand Business Premier class just isn’t luxurious enough to be a memorable experience.

As we overheard a couple of passengers on the flight, the Air New Zealand Business Premier class is good to use points to upgrade to, but if not, it’s not the end of the world because their economy class product isn’t that bad at all.

Until Next Time,

Team GTE



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