NZ has recently made some big changes to their products and fully upgraded their A320 and B763 cabins and introduced PTVs, Space+ and finally made it easier for Airpoints members to get the status that many members deserve who prefer to travel on the cheapest economy fares. On many routes to/from New Zealand and Australia/Pacific Islands, NZ now has the best product on the market and is worth paying slightly more for. One of the first things passengers on my flights noticed was how inviting the cabin looked after the upgrade while boarding. A big well done totally needs to go to ANZES (Air New Zealand Engineering Services) for the hard work they did in making NZs A320 fleet a more better aircraft to fly on. I’m sure the B763 is also a more nicer aircraft to fly on now that it also received the upgrade at the same time.
Saturday 16th May arrived and after waking up at 3.30am to get ready, I was off to the airport at 4am. After arriving at the airport, I proceeded directly to the International counters. This morning NZ had two Australian flights departing. NZ741 to SYD and NZ769 to BNE. Both operated by NZs 152 seater A320. QF and DJ also had flights departing to Australia around the same time. QF118 to SYD, QF38 to MEL and DJ69 to BNE.
NZs new domestic check-in ‘counters’ are certainly interesting and helps NZ to stand apart from the competition.
After paying the departure fee and purchasing some Australian currency, I quickly proceeded through customs and security screening but was stopped for a secondary screening for fluids and drugs. After easily passing the screening, I made my way to the first duty free shop and purchased some items for pick up on my return trip. While waiting for the boarding call for NZs BNE flight to be announced, the QF agent announced that QF118 to SYD will be delayed due to problems with the aircraft. The NZ announcement for BNE came at 5.45am with Star Gold, Business pax and familys with young children being asked to board, followed by pax in rows 15+ and finally pax seated in rows 4-14. Once on board, as I said before, the new cabin instantly gave a very inviting appeal.
Photo © Jonathan Rankin
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: A320, ZK-OJN
Photo © Jonathan Rankin
Loads: 75% full roughly
While boarding we were greeted by two very friendly female FA with one greeting and the other pointing you towards your seat. Since the ZEAL crews are currently in pay talks with NZ and recently had a 4 day strike, some of the crews were still wearing union stickers on their shirt sleeves, which didn’t impress some pax, as its simply painting a very unprofessional picture of them. After being pointed to my seat I sat down and started to experience the new touch screen PTVs with NZs new gate2gate entertainment system. I find the new panasonic system more easier to operate then the B744 and B777 system due to the more faster response times and simply being able to quickly find what your wanting. Very quickly many pax started to watch movies while still parked at the gate. Some children on board who wanted to play games had to wait till the seat belt signs were switched off before games could be played on the PTV.
Once the door was closed, the FA came and spoke to me and the person who was seated in 12C about the emergency exit as our row was an emergency exit row. Our flight pushed back 5 minutes early at 6.10am and by 6.15 we were heading to the runway. After the safety video was showen and the short taxi to the runway, our flight was sitting on the runway ready for action. As the engines were slowly increasing the ‘reeves’, the pilots released the breakes and the airbus roared to life with the usual whine the V2500 Airbus engines make. After a short while we lifted off the runway and into the night sky with the sun slowly starting to rise off the Wairarapa coast to the East of Wellington. The flight proceeded north towards Titahi Bay before turning West towards BNE. After about 5-8mins, the seat belt signs were turned off and one of the 4 FA started to come around with the Australian arrivals card while another FA made an announcement about the swine flu virus and the pre-cautions the Australian government and other governments around the world were doing to help prevent the virus spreading while another FA started handing out forms that would be collected by Australian Customs. As many pax settled into watching the movie, TV show or games on the PTV, the FAs started to prepare for the breakfast service. Shortly afterwards the breakfast option announcement came. Todays choice was either a hot or cold option. The options were a Continental breakfast or a corn fritter with bacon with both served with a fruit platter and muffin with a drink service. The drink service offering today was water, tea, coffee, juice, alcoholic drinks or coke/fanta/sprite/L & P. Many pax like me, I decided to take the hot breakfast option. For the drink, I decided to have orange juice.
Considering this was an Trans-Tasman service, I found the breakfast option to be a filling meal and the corn fritter was excellent with plenty of taste in it. NZs chiefs certainly know to make good meals to suit the flight. About 30 mins after the meal service was first started, another drinks service came around and this time I asked for a chardonnay, which was served in a small wine bottle and cup. Not long afterwards an FA came around to collect the trays and any rubbish. Normally around now the FAs all disappear into the galleys and they aren’t seen again till just before the flight starts to descend or another drinks service is started. One thing I find with NZs crews is that they are always maintaining a presence in the cabin and quickly respond to the call button. Around every 20 mins an FA did a water service round, which seemed popular as she needed to get a new water bottle frequently. Around 30 mins from BNE an FA handed me a Customs/Quarantine ‘Express’ card. The Express cards are given to NZs Silver, Gold and Gold Elite members. The ‘Express’ cards are used to bypass the lines and proceed directly to a special desk at Customs and Quarantine for priority service. Around the same time the pilot came on the PA and announced that we would be arriving in BNE around 20 mins early and gave an updated weather report which hadn’t changed from his first report while waiting to depart from WLG. This updated report certainly pleased many pax as it was going to be a warm day in Brissie. By now I was wishing I had also packed some shorts instead of only jeans. One of the FAs shortly came around with the NZ lollies which is certainly popular with the passengers. Not long afterwards the descent preparation were finished and the FAs took their seats for landing. Our flight touched down around 7.50am. We arrived at the gate shortly before 8am but then the pilot came on the PA and said that because of our early arrival, there was no QF staff at the gate to meet our flight. Within 10 minutes a gate agent arrived and the air bridge was connected to the aircraft. From walking off the aircraft till when I was out of the terminal, it only took 15 mins and I was walking to the Airtrain terminal to catch the next train to Central Station and then a bus to the Carindale bus station
Tuesday 19th arrived and it was time to head home. After waking up at 5am to get ready, I was making the short 100 metre walk from the hotel to the Carindale bus station to catch the 5.40am bus to Central. Overnight there was a good heavy rainfall and it still showed no sign of easing up as the bus arrived and the flooding of streets and parks showed that it certainly was a bad night. The front that was passing through also caused the Northern region of NSW beside Queensland to be declared disaster zones with airports flooded and roads being turned into lakes and rivers.
After arriving at the airport, I proceeded to check-in and after waiting around 30seconds, it was my turn to check-in. I was given my boarding pass and off I went to do some duty free shopping. After spending some money and walking around with several bags of different shapes and sizes, I proceeded through Customs and within 10 minutes was on the ‘other side’ waiting for my flight and doing a bit of terminal exploring.
Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: A320, ZK-OJM
Photo © Songyuan Andy Zheng
Photo © Jonathan Rankin
Seat: 8A (Space+)
Loads: 90% full roughly
Once on board and settled into your Space+ seat you certainly notice the leg room difference compared to normal economy seats in NZs fleet. Only problem when seated in the space+ seat is that you have further to lean forward if getting something from the seat pocket or from your bag that’s under the seat in front of you. One of the first things that I noticed (as I also noticed on the WLG-BNE flight) was there was also no Kio Ora magazine to read. Aparantly its been removed from the A320 fleet to help save weight and also because of the new IFE system. Domestic flights still have the magazine, but not sure about the long haul flights. After quickly scanning through the in-flight entertainment booklet and found a good movie to watch, I started to watch the movie while still parked at the gate. An FA came around with a selection of Australian newspapers in both cabins. It certainly is nice when some airlines are still offering newspapers to economy class passengers instead of only to first or business passengers. Push back was on time at 9.15am and the in-flight entertainment was paused while the safety video was played. After a fairly long taxi to the runway and waiting for two other flights in front of us to depart we lined up on the runway and waited for take off clearance. With a drop of the brake the Airbus whine got louder and louder and we got pushed further and further back into our seats and with our body weight going to our feet we launched into the very dark and raining sky and we headed East towards New Zealand. After about 10mins, the pilot came over the PA and announced that due to a very bumpy first 30 minutes of the flight, the seat belt signs would remain on. One of the 4 FA started to come around with the New Zealand arrivals card while another FA made an announcement about the swine flu virus and the pre-cautions the New Zealand Ministry of Health and other governments around the world were doing to help prevent the virus spreading while another FA started handing out forms that would be collected by New Zealand Customs. As many pax settled into watching the movie, TV show or games on the PTV, the FAs started to prepare for the breakfast service. Shortly afterwards the breakfast option announcement came. Todays choice was again either a hot or cold option. The options were a Continental breakfast or a bacon and egg pie with both served with a fruit platter, a muffin with a drink service. The drink service offering today was again water, tea, coffee, juice, alcoholic drinks or coke/fanta/sprite/L & P. Many pax seemed to go with the Orange or tomato juice, but this time I decided to go with some water.
Around 30 minutes after breakfast was served, another drinks service came and this time I again decided to go with some wine. The empty trays were shortly collected afterwards. By now we were well and truly past the turbulence and the seatbelt signs had been turned off. Outside was a nice blue sky which certainly made up the for the dark skies that had covered BNE earlier.
Shortly before we started flying over New Zealand, one of the FAs announced that a girl who was celebrating her 10th birthday would be handing out the lollies. Once we were flying over New Zealand we turned towards Nelson to make our approach into WLG.
Considering the weather that was sweeping up New Zealand we had a nice landing with a few bumps, we were arriving at the terminal after a short taxi and I got a good upclose view of WLGs new terminal extensions which is currently being built.
Due to the construction, the normal route to Customs has been closed off and we ended up walking through what felt like a maze past airport offices to the Customs hall. After quickly clearing Customs, I was off the pick up the duty free shopping from before I left for BNE and head to baggage claim. Baggage claim at WLG for arriving international passengers is painfully slow which seems to be normal. IMHO its worse then AKL, even thou AKL is bigger and handles more flights. After around waiting for 20 mins, the bags finally started to arrive and it was off the Qauarantine to declare the shopping and get picked up for the ride back home.
Overall impression: NZ is an award winning airline and it certainly shows in their in-flight service on all types of flights. In Australia, the ground crews are provided by Qantas, and QF certainly does a good job for NZs flights Check-in was nice, quick and easy with the ground crews being very helpful, so an easy 10/10 there. In-flight service is as usual excellent, but the stickers on the A320 crews uniforms due to their strikes is distracting and makes them look unprofessional, so an 8/10 there.