Trip Report Air New Zealand Skycouch
11th April MEL
23rd April: LAX
I recently took the family to Los Angeles for a family holiday. We flew Air New Zealand, mainly because I wanted to try their new product, the Skycouch, which seemed to be an ideal product for families travelling with young children. OK
…I will admit that for many years, I have held grudge against this airline as I hold them responsible for the demise of Ansett airlines in 2001 and the loss of up to 15,000 Ausralian jobs. However, many years have past and the people responsible for those decisions (such as Selwyn Cushing, etc) are no longer there...the airline itself has obviously also transformed itself into a completely different and competitive carrier. So I decided to give them a go…
Check in MEL
There were long lines at Check in, especially for economy class passengers.
has become increasingly congested of late…the landside areas including drop off and pick up, check in areas are packed with hardly ANY further room for more check-in desks. Whilst there has been considerable improvement to the airside areas, the landside area desperately needs more space.
We had loads to check in (as anyone who has traveled with young children would know…the amount of infrastructure is really quite mind-boggling). 3 suitcases (for extra shopping), 2 car seats and 2 strollers (7 pieces of luggage altogether). The check-in agent was not particularly friendly and at one point, I actually caught her rolling her eyes at her colleague…maybe at the amount of luggage we had? When I asked her if we had skycouch seats allocated (just checking), she said “ I think so….yeah…whatever THAT is…”
I know NZ
uses Qantas for their ground handling at MEL
, but even if it was for a competing carrier, she was most unprofessional. Oh well, moving on.
This was our 772 across the tasman.
As mentioned earlier, the new airside areas at MEL
look great. Much more pleasant and spacious.
New Café Vue…excellent food with a ‘vue’ of the planes close up. Worth checking in early for.
Boarding was a little chaotic, but eventually, we were welcomed aboard.
I found Air New Zealand’s crew very friendly and professional. Sort of like a more laid back version of Qantas. The crew were especially welcoming towards children with kid’s packs, etc handed out as we boarded. I couldn’t help but noticed how several crew members were VERY ‘mature aged’. I don’t mean 40s or 50s, but well into their 60s and looking more like 70! This observation was also valid for all the other ANZ flights for the rest of the trip. Mind you, age did not affect their performance at all, but ANZ obviously retain their crew well past retirement age…at least, more so than most other carriers I have flown. Good on them, if they are still up to the job.
Love this version of the Airshow with high resolution maps.
Kids settling down to a meal (delicious hamburger-I had a bite) and IFE. Contented kids = relaxed parents = settled cabin.
Nothing much to say about the rest of this short hop across the Tasman.
Landed at AKL
on time with a 5 hour transit before NZ
2 to LAX
later on that evening.
During the stopover, we were told that Auckland traffic was terrible and so we did not risk taking a cab into the city for a few hours for fear of missing our flight. Instead, we met up wit h a friend of ours at the Villa Maria winery about 5 mins from the airport terminal. Quite strange….it’s a beautiful vineyard located in the middle of an industrial area near the airport. Go figure!
Anyway, the surrounds were perfect for the kids to have a play/run around and we had the best antipasto platter I have ever had in my life….if this was a good representation of New Zealand produce…..I WANT MORE!! Yum.
Before too long, we were back at AKL
; getting a bit tired by now. Really hoping the skycouch will at least allow us to sleep a bit better for the 12 hour hop to LAX
is quite a nice airport airside. They have a few really cool architectural features including this light/sound column the kids seemed to like. Good choice of food and retail outlets, although the duty-free prices were not really cheaper compared to Australia or elsewhere. I find Kiwis to be so friendly and you really do get a sense of this at the airport.
Soon enough, we headed towards gate 10 where our brand new 777-300 ER
was waiting for us. The boarding process was terrible. Firstly, the gate holding area at gate 10 meant had only 50% or less of the required seating for a full flight, so passengers had to spill over onto gate 9 and STILL this resulted in many people just standing around waiting to board. Boarding was delayed by around 45 mins….not a single announcement as to why/when and the chaos was staring to build. The toilets at the this far end of the terminal, were in a filthy state (not in keeping with the rest of the airport). I noticed the same on a LAN flight via AKL
When boarding eventually began, it was completely haphazard. No boarding by rows, confusion as to whether families with children first or whenever and people were getting frustrated. On board, still NO MENTION of why there was a delay or even acknowledgement or there being one. Maybe it’s because of the laid back nature of NZ
? Dunno. It helps to be informed, in my opinion.
Anyway, now about the new 777-300ER cabin!
Initial impressions are good. The colours are fresh and new, with contrasting black and whites. There definitely was a new aircraft smell. Walking past business premier…I thought the seats looked very narrow and the herringbone layout lacked privacy….never tried this product though, so can’t really comment anymore than that. Give me SQ
’s wide J class seats anyday, or even QF
Sitting in the economy seat…you immediately notice how cramped it is…..this is because Air New Zealand has added an extra row to make their 777s 10 abreast (3-4-3) (compared to the industry standard of 9 abreast 3-3-3). No wonder they have enough yield to offer the skycouch. Because we had booked 2 rows of the skycouch, we had 6 seats to ourselves, so it was fine. But I really pity those in the centre of the cabin who had to endure such awful and narrow seats for the whole flight. The aisles are also impossible narrow.
Look at how narrow this is…the guy in front just has to slightly lean over across the aisle and he is virtually already touching the other side.
This had flow on effects; the boarding process was painfully slow and the poor flight crew had to struggle through each meal service, saying ‘excuse me’ dozens of times because passengers’ shoulders etc were being knocked by the trolley cart.
Now to the pluses.
I LOVE Air New Zealand’s new IFE system. The touch screen system is so easy to use, intuitive, responsive and very user friendly. I also love that you can order from your seat, with menus etc available.
Supper was served TWO HOURS after take off (sorry, no pics, but the choice was between lamb and fish I think. I chose the fish. Both smelt yummy. The food protions are not huge on ANZ, but the quality is definitely there. Very nice meals. The kids meals were amazing. Plus there +++. It took ages and forever to clear the trays, probably because of the tight cabin space. ANZ
will need to work on this.
After supper, the skycouch was deployed. We were given plenty of help….it can be a bit tricky, especially with the seatbelt configurations, etc, but overall, I found it reasonably easy to work out. The couch is a couch…NOT a bed, as your legs will stretch fully across the aisle to touch the opposite seat if extended fully. BUT, for an adult with a young child, it was perfect, as we found. Because my son was tired, I put him to bed first whilst I watched a few more movies until I was ready to sleep later. All in all, I got around 4 or 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. My wife, the same. For us, travelling with young kids, this product is a winner.
I think ANZ should be applauded for this new product. It is truly innovative and such a pity, because if only they remove 1 row of seats to restore the 777 back to 9 abreast seating, they would have the best economy class in the sky. As it stands, even thought their soft product is good, if I weren’t booked to have a skycouch, there is no way I would settle for an economy class ticket on the new 777-300ER for a long haul flight.
The rest of the flight was fairly unremarkable. We arrived slightly behind schedule because of the delay into LAX
Our bird ONO.
I don’t really have time to post a full report for the return leg, so I’ll just include some pictures from the flight:
Oh, and one more thing before I go…I can’t stand the ANZ inflight safety videos…featuring Snoop Dogg. I mean…I know they are trying to be different and innovative, but it’s really not THAT funny and having watched it 4 times, I can tell you….people get sick of it real quick. Hardly anyone was laughing at any of the stupid and childish jokes. It’s just all a bit too try-hard. A bit like how people get sick of the Virgin-esque smart arse attitude that pervades the company’s image.
So, in summary:
Excellent, warm and friendly crew. (still nowhere near as efficient as SQ
, but pretty good overall and more consistent than Qantas)
Excellent IFE and new touch screen systems
Excellent Meals/food (small portions), but good quality food.
Ridiculously cramped economy class seats and aisles on the 777-300ER. This is NOT a spacious product by any means
Ground staff inconsistent and boarding procedures consistently chaotic, poor communication re delays, etc
Rude check in at MEL
, but externally contracted.
Thanks for reading everyone and sorry for the rushed report….just not enough time.