I am back home in Brisbane after a two week trip to Sydney and Auckland. I thought I may as well share some comments about the flights between Sydney and Auckland, on Emirates, aboard their brand new A340-500.
Wednesday January 7th, EK412 SYD-AKL, Economy Class
The flight boarded through door 2L of the A340-500, A6-ERC, the latest addition to the fleet. Unfortunately, this means you can't actually see the wonderful First Class unless you are lucky enough to be seated there. I was able to have a look at the Business Class, which didn't look too shabby at all (though I got the impression perhaps not as spacious as that on some other airlines - could well be something to do with the design of the seat, I guess, or photographic tricks from those other airlines). I was surprised to find my seat, 24A, was in fact at the trailing edge of the wing - the premium section really does use up a lot of room. The seat was immediately in front of the toilet which was itself immediately in front of door 3L. The meant limited recline for me, but the view of the wing was nice. Departure was slightly delayed due to some passengers taking their time, however nothing to complain about. The takeoff was rather powerful - no hairdryers attached to this model of A340.
The ICE entertainment system took a little while to work out how to use, but once I had mastered it, it was rather good. The control box under the seat, however, was a damn pain - I guess thats the price you pay for having a big TV
screen to keep you busy. After a relatively fast, and uneventful, flight, we touched down in Auckland, and although Gate 5 (the one with the nice glass airbridge) was free, the aircraft instead parked in one of the new layover stands, from where we were bussed to the terminal. I must say it isn't the most ceremonious way to arrive, and I hope Auckland investigates the possibility of expanding the Terminal, as it isn't designed for the levels of traffic Auckland now sees over the summer months. On the plus side, for me anyway, the bus afforded a nice view of some other aircraft parked on the tarmac, including an Emirates 777-300 which had since taken Gate 5. The wait at both passport control and the luggage carousel was thankfully not particularly long.
Monday January 12th, EK413, AKL-SYD, Business Class
Yup, that's right, Business Class. Due to the flight being full, I was one of the lucky buggers who got told they were being upgraded to Business Class (I have no idea how I was chosen, guess I must just look like a good bloke...). The upgrade was a very pleasant surprise, even if it meant no window seat (I was given 8B). Again, boarding was through 2L, so I guess if I ever want to see those First Class seats, I'll have to cough up the money for the airfare. The aircraft was once more A6-ERC, still with the new aeroplane smell. The Business Class seats are very nice, although the shell of the seat in front does seem to take up a fair bit of space. The big screen was very nice, though. Departure from Auckland was on time, and this time I discovered the forward and downward looking camera features, which made for an enjoyable takeoff. Unfortunately, being an evening westbound flight, they weren't that great once we were airborne. The service was obviously a clear step up, with all the usual items one expects in business class - table cloths (covering up the very nice wooden finish of the table), choices of all courses, good wine, etc. I wouldn't say the service was hugely friendly, but it was certainly of a high standard, albeit perhaps a little rushed.
I found the touch screen controller which operates the TV
and the seat to be somewhat mediocre. It regularly stopped working, which was very annoying when trying to get the seat into a comfortable position. I have a sneaking suspicion there may be an overheating problem which causes the controller to not always respond to touch. The actual TV
screens didn't share this problem. If it is a wider problem, and not just a fault with my specific set, I hope it can be fixed, because the controller is very nifty. On the other hand, I think it may be easier to simply have dedicated seat controls on the seat, instead of having to take out a touch screen controller. I was able to recline the seat as far as I could get it to go. Unlike the latest offerings from the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas etc, the seat does not recline to be fully flat, on an angle, but rather keeps somewhat of a cradle form. The recline is nothing to complain about, and as I have yet to try the aforementioned fully flat products, I won't make any judgement on it with regard to those products.
Arrival into Sydney was a bit late, due to headwinds over the Tasman Sea. I had no where to go other than a hotel before my 7:30am flight the next day (today), so it didn't bother me, and gave me more time to explore the entertainment system. The night landing looked great on the forward facing camera. I discovered as we were disembarking that the lady who had been sitting next to me on EK412 was also upgraded to Business class on this flight - life's little coincidences. There was no wait to clear customs, and minimal wait for baggage. The arrivals area at Sydney, both before and after quarantine, is much nicer in my opionion that that in Auckland.
So all in all, my return flight with Emirates turned out to be very good. I would certainly consider flying them again. The Economy Class airfare (A$460 for Sydney to Auckland return) is great, although other carriers are matching it. One thing which did annoy me, was the inequity in airfares between those ticket in Australia, and those in New Zealand. While Economy Class was comparable in price, SYD
return in Business or First Class was some A$1000 more expensive than AKL
return. I have no idea why this is, but it is a shame, as I would have paid the Business Class price on offer from NZ
(roughly A$1000), or probably even the First Class price (roughly A$1250).
If you have any questions/comments, go for it...