Flight Review: Premium Economy to London with Air New Zealand – Leg One – Melbourne to Auckland (NZ124)

Photo: Air New Zealand

While most fly to London via Asia or the Middle East, Air New Zealand offer a service that take you via Auckland and Los Angeles. It’s a longer journey, but depending on the needs of your travel could end up being a better option. Our own Jennifer Quinlin recently flew from Melbourne to London on Air New Zealand‘s remarkable Premium Economy “Spaceseat” service and across the next week we’ll be bringing you her experiences of long journey. We start with the first leg, from Melbourne to Auckland.

Airline: Air New Zealand
Route: Melbourne – Auckland NZ124
Seat: 23K (Premium Economy, 2-2-2 configuration)
Aircraft: B777-300

Scheduled Flight Time: 3 hours 35 minutes (departure 1215, due 1750)
On Schedule?: Pushback 2 minutes early, arrived 1735 (15 minutes early)

Frequent Flyer: Air New Zealand Airpoints & Star Alliance Network

Check-in & Baggage:

Allowance for Premium Economy is 2 checked bags (23 kg each) and Premium Check-in.  Pre-flight seat requests available. I joined the Premium Boarding queue in Melbourne Airport and was third in line.  Served promptly and bags checked through all the way to London Heathrow.  Boarding passes issued for NZ124 and NZ2.

Meal Service:

Premium meals and drinks, with on-demand snack and drinks menu via touchscreen throughout majority of flight.  Menus are distributed just after boarding.  Lunch and dinner includes a starter, main, dessert, hot bakery items, and cheese and crackers, as well as the choice of hot and cold drinks.  This flight was a lunch service and it was certainly more of a Business Class presentation than Economy, with proper cutlery and dishes.

In-flight Entertainment:

Movies, TV, music, and games. Seat chat – which I assume is a messaging system but I didn’t try it out.  Other features include the drinks and snacks on-demand system, and the airshow so you can watch your flight or work out where you are if something interesting appears out the window. The entertainment can be operated either by touchscreen or by using the remote control, which is stored in the hardshell around your seat.  I watched Eddie the Eagle across the Tasman and enjoyed it, then watched a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

Comfort: 

The Premium Economy Spaceseats are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration.  Side seats angled towards window and offset from other seat in pair.  All are encased in a hardshell, and the seat reclines and tilts within that shell.  This removes the problem of people reclining into your space.  Centre seats designed to be more communal and feature armrests which can be raise to form a table, or lowered to create a joined seat.  My seat was a window seat at the front of the Premium Economy cabin, situated directly behind the bulkhead.  The bulkhead is curved which allows the space to feel more open, and the window seat has a footwell in the bulkhead for stretching the legs out.

Each passenger is provided with a bean bag footrest and they can be positioned to suit, though I found mine to be a little unsupportive and felt like it should have had more beans to have any real benefit.  Fortunately I had an empty seat beside me and I snagged a second footrest, which made a big difference.  I’m 5’9” and the footwell was just deep enough for my feet to rest against the back wall at full stretch when the seat was reclined.  It’s no lie-flat but infinitely better than economy and, as someone who suffers a lot with sore legs and knees on flights, this is a godsend.  Another interesting feature, and a new one for me, is the inclusion of an airbag on the seatbelt.

I thought it was padding for the hip but I heard a flight attendant advising the couple across from me with an infant to be sure they kept the baby on the side opposite to the airbag. The seat features a storage pocket for small items in the armrest, and there is a magazine sized storage pocket at the side.  Passengers are provided with a pillow, blanket, noise-reducing headphones, bottled water, and an amenities kit which includes toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, socks, an eye mask, pen, and earplugs.

Customer Service:  

Check-in and gate staff were very friendly and efficient, with pre-boarding well organised and controlled.  A warm greeting was given when boarding the aircraft, with a personal welcome by name. Once seated we were provided with hot towels to refresh ourselves, and they were promptly collected after use.  This was followed with a choice of juice or bubbles.  The Air New Zealand safety video – this one featuring the All Blacks as the Men In Black – was entertaining and got all the messages across in the best way.  They really know how to do a great safety video, that’s for sure.  All of the flight crew were attentive, professional, and friendly, per usual, and are one of the main reasons I enjoy flying with Air New Zealand.

Transit at Auckland International Airport: 

Connecting international flights are directed to International Transfer area where x-ray screening is conducted.  Queue was very long by the time the economy passengers had joined but seemed to move relatively quickly.  Some folk not situationally aware and joined the queue where it was broken to facilitate egress from the flight itself but there was a staff member on hand to redirect queue jumpers to the end of the line.  It took about 30 minutes, which didn’t matter in a transit time of 3.5 hours (longer than the flight over the Tasman took).

Auckland airport was very crowded when we arrived, and the airport is undertaking renovations so it really felt there was a shortage of seating.  I roamed aimlessly for a fair while until I found a side corridor with a few seats and lurked there the majority of the time whilst awaiting the departure gate to be listed on the displays.  It was 2040 before the gate was listed, then I went to gate to wait.  You’ll have priority boarding for NZ2 when flying Premium Economy.

Read on to part two of my journey, as I jump on NZ2 to Los Angeles HERE.

To book yourself a journey with Air New Zealand, visit their official website.

The author flew at her own expense in June 2016.