I booked my flight using 110,000 United Mileage Plus miles in March and from March 21st through my departure date of November 3rd, I had the hardest time finding business class seats available on any flight from North America to Auckland!! Arrgh!! I flew first class DEN-SFO on a 752, something which I do from time to time, and the service was solid but it did not compare even to the service I received in economy on my SFO-AKL leg. A little side note - I was not at all impressed with the service levels of the ticketing agents that NZ used in SFO. There were about four of them and I believe they were employees of Asiana or something like that. They were not NZ employees but I am not sure how all of that works between the airlines. Anyhow, these people were not very helpful and did not smile, act interested, etc. But that was the only small negative experience I had with NZ on either flight to/from the States, and it did not tarnish the trip in the least.
The flight from SFO-AKL was 12.5 hours and the service, even in Y, was very nice. I loved how the smooth-talking Kiwi lady (sexy voice...sorry but it was) announced a few times "we're going to take good care of you on our journey down to Auckland." Made me feel all fuzzy inside. Little things like that help me enjoy a trip better. I had an aisle seat on NZ's 772 with a 3-3-3 configuration. The flight was slam-packed, only about 5-6 empty seats in the whole plane as far as I could see. I do not have pictures of this segment as I was too excited and looking around and eating and drinking and playing with the IFE. However, the flight attendants were all super professional, courteous, and accommodating to everyone around me. They first offered a drink selection, with complimentary alcohol. The first run through of drinks included a sparkling wine, in which I partook and that was great! The meal was nice, a choice between a citrus glazed salmon and a NZ lamb roast. I am a carnivore extraordinaire so I had the lamb roast, and it was very nice. Herbed potatoes and roasted vegetables were good and the wine was fantastic - a 2005 NZ Pinot Noir (by the way, I had maybe had one glass of Pinot Noir in my lifetime before my trip down there but I am now a huge fan of Pinot. I didn't have a bad Pinot during my entire two week trip). Anyhow, the food and wine was good and alcohol was complimentary.
I had a few glasses and kicked back in my chair for a nap. I thought that the seat pitch was a bit tight for legroom (I'm 6'3" tall), but the adjustable headrests were nice and the seat was comfortable overall. The IFE was very comprehensive and offered lots of choices of movies, a great music selection with many different choices - classic jazz, new alternative rock, alt. country, etc. I'm a huge music buff so this was a nice feature they offered. I settled in on Miles Davis - Kind of Blue and I was chilling in no time. I actually slept about 6 hours on this leg, which is probably more total than I have slept on any of about 100 flights I have taken in the past few years combined!! It was great and when I woke up they announced "I hope that you were able to catch some sleep last night, and soon we will be coming through the cabin with our breakfast service. I honestly cannot remember what I had for breakfast (I was groggy as hell) but I believe it was a tasty omelet with hash browns. A glass of hot tea and I was feeling fine. We finished the flight by arriving about an hour ahead of schedule so we ended up making it down there in about 12.5 hours. Pretty good time. Overall the flight was a very nice experience and everything about NZ simply exudes quality, in my book.
I will now get to the trip I want to talk about. I began the day in WLG and took QF in economy on a 737 up to AKL.
QF offered nice service overall although the flight was pretty short (~1hr.) They served a chicken pie with relish and offered whatever you like from the bar, complimentary. This was a nice change (from US airlines' service) as it was such a short flight but they allowed me to choose anything I liked from the bar. I took the chicken pie and had one last Speight's beer and was happy as could be.
After the short flight WLG-AKL I had a bit of time to kill in AKL before my NZ flight AKL-YVR. I had traveled hostel-style for about 12 days and, although I showered every day and washed clothes once or twice, I still wanted to clean up a bit before my flight to YVR, then the YVR-SEA flight on AC, then the SEA-DEN flight on UA. It was going to be a long day. I can't tell you how excited I was about my flight from AKL-YVR in Business Connoisseur class ("Biz class"). I had used so many UA miles for this trip and I am so glad that I was able to secure a seat in NZ Business for my trip home.
I did not know it but I was able to go through customs in AKL's business class room (I didn't take a picture but I was able to go through the glass door entry for Biz class). This was nice and it took about 3 minutes, as NZ runs all business class ticket holders through this "special" room. Maybe this is normal for airlines to do this but I never travel anything but economy when traveling overseas, so I was very impressed. Once again, NZ's employees were very professional, laid-back, and courteous towards me as I zoomed through customs. I stopped by the convenience store inside the International Terminal and, for some reason, I bought a NZ$21 magazine with Led Zeppelin on the cover. I believe it was Uncut, a magazine from the UK. I got a CD with it so it wasn't entirely a crazy purchase. But I digress.
I made my way up to the NZ lounge and it was awesome! They had a nice spread of food and drinks available but I needed to freshen up first. I walked around for a bit and noticed a sign that read "Showers." Hmm...could I sneak in there and take a shower? I'm such a novice that I thought I was doing something wrong by taking a shower, but anyone in the lounge was able to take a shower there. The shower was way nicer than the one in my condo in Denver so I took full advantage of it.
It was soooo nice to grab a quick shower, change my clothes and be all set for my long flight. I set my stuff down on the comfy chairs in the lounge and loaded up a plate of olives, crackers/cheese, roasted chicken, and got another Speight's beer.
As I was walking back to my chair I noticed a sign that read "free massage." I'm all about the free stuff so I asked the lady and she said that they were from a spa in Auckland and they were giving free massages to people on a list of international flights. My flight 84 was on the list so I said "sign me up!" I went over to my chair, set down the food/beer and made my way back to the massage room.
I spent the next 20 minutes getting the crap beat out of me by a young Vietnamese gentleman, but I felt all loose and relaxed afterwards, which helped. I then heard my flight announced so I made my way over to the gate. I got a picture of our beautiful bird before I boarded.
I finally boarded the flight and made my way to the front of the plane, seat 3A. I was so excited and I was super-impressed with the Biz class cabin. My seat:
Wow, I am not sure how these seats stack up to SQ or EK or the other top international airlines but this is as nice as I have ever seen. Within about 2 minutes a very nice gentleman came by and offered me a pre-flight drink - I went with the NZ sparkling wine again. SO GOOD!!!
This will sound silly, but even the napkins NZ uses have a clean, sharp look to them. Everything about this airline reeked of quality and cleanliness, just like the whole country of NZ did. I spent the next 20 minutes squirming around, looking at all of the buttons and knobs and the other folks in the Biz class cabin and sipping my sparkling wine. I could tell that this was going to be a great experience.
Wow! The menu showed lots of buttons and things to provide the customer with everything they could want during the flight. I looked around the cabin again as they closed the doors and noticed that the Biz class cabin was about 1/2 full, actually 15 of 28 seats were full. Not great and I hope that NZ is able to fill this cabin in the future and make this flight viable. Next, two gentlemen went through the safety demonstrations and this picture shows a flight attendant (on the right) and the Inflight Service Manager (on the left, his name was Glenn and he was fantastic). I was just impressed that they offered an Inflight Service Manager.
Next we began taxiing and I noticed that the AR flight to Buenos Aires was taxiing down the runway, too, about to head to Buenos Aires. It is behind the QF 744 in this picture.
They turned the lights down and it looked like a disco for a while. Pretty cool.
Then I checked out the IFE screen and it put the long flight in to perspective:
I began reading the menus for what I could expect to eat/drink on the flight and both menus were extensive lists of meals and drinks offered on the flight.
The appetizer was the best part of the meal. It was palm sugar cured big eye Tuna with a delicious red onion compote and light NZ wasabi cream. This was fantastic!! I should have asked for more.
After snarfing down the appetizer in about 20 seconds I decided that my main course would be the loin of New Zealand lamb with gourmet potatoes, glazed witloof (whatever that is), pea puree and roast lamb jus. After a bit the gentleman came by and filled up my new glass of Pinot Noir and I ordered the NZ lamb. After about 20 minutes the dish came out to me:
The presentation was not great but I didn't care. I was pretty hungry. I dug in to it and the lamb was very good. The Pinot washing it down was better but we won't get in to that. It took me about 10 minutes to eat the whole thing and I was still hungry afterwards. Dessert came next and I chose the following:
It was an orange blossom honey cream custard with dark chocolate lamington. I had no idea what that meant but it tasted great, and I chose the after dinner wine to accompany the custard. Fantastic dessert! Well, I thought that was it as far as food goes, so I stowed my (large) table in to the seat box and sat back. Well, in a few minutes they brought by a plate of cheese and crackers so I indulged once again.
Man, what a culinary experience!! All of the food was very good and the service was attentive, professional, and quick. Glenn, the Inflight Service Manager, was delightful and supported his attendants very well. I sat back and began to relax but I was like a little kid, turning knobs and exploring my seat, which had about 50 different settings of seat pitch, lumbar support, TV controls, table stowage, etc. It was fun but it took me a few hours to figure it all out. Maybe it was the wine that was making me slow to figure it all out. Ha. I took a look at the IFE screen and it looked cool as we were heading in to the darkness as we traveled northeast towards Canada.
After chilling out to some Diana Krall and then Miles Davis, I laid my seat all the way down to lie-flat and "made my bed." I was surprised but the bed was plenty long as it extended to 6'6" and I am only 6'3". Fantastic. I tried to sleep for a few hours but was unable to. I thought that the flight was fairly bumpy but at second thought I think that it was my first time lying my head down on the pillow/seat, so I more easily felt any slight movement of the aircraft. Normally I am sitting up in my chair in economy and aircraft movement is not as easily felt, for some reason. But after a few hours I finally slept for about 3 hours. Not terrible but less than I wanted. I was awakened to the option of muesli with whipped cream or a fresh banana smoothie. I chose the smoothie and it was great.
Next was a nice plate of fresh fruit with whipped cream on top and a cup of very good hot tea.
And finally a few minutes later I chose the full breakfast: scrambled eggs with grilled NZ king salmon, baby spinach and cheddar potato cakes. A great breakfast, no doubt.
Well after this I was plenty full (3-course breakfast..? Wow) and I had another cup of tea and sat back as we flew over the bazillion islands close to Vancouver. I filled out my Canada customs form and stowed all of my tables, TV monitor, and finally spoke with my flight attendant for a bit. He didn't know much about Vancouver and was looking out the window with me, stunned at the amount of water around. I explained to him how neat of a city Vancouver is and we talked for a bit more before I sat up in my seat and prepared for landing. We had a smooth landing and my perfect journey across the Pacific was complete.
Thanks to Glenn and his whole staff on board NZ flight 84 AKL-YVR on November 16th, 2007. What a great experience and a great airline!
Hope you guys enjoyed the trip report - my hands are now tired and I'm going back to work.