Editor Update: Unfortunately the LHR-LAX route has now been suspended.
Once again I recently flew from London Heathrow to Los Angeles with Air New Zealand on a rather last-minute trip for my Birthday. This review is about my experience from the moment I arrived at Heathrow to when I touched down at LAX on March 6, 2014, which happened to also be my tenth flight with the airline.
Check In and the Departures Area
Air New Zealand's flights between London, Los Angeles and Auckland now operates from Terminal 2 at Heathrow; which is otherwise known as The Queen's Terminal.
After a very short wait to check-in for my flight, I was soon enough on my way through security and into the departures area. There are quite a few shops such as World Duty Free, WHSmith's and Ted Baker which I like to wander through in order to pass the time and there is also plenty of places to grab a snack including EAT, WonderTree and a even pub before it's time to make your way to the gate.
You'll find that the departure gates for Air New Zealand are located in T2B, a satellite terminal which is roughly a ten to fifteen minute walk away via passenger tunnel.
Once at the gate I didn't have to wait too long until the boarding process began. To help things go smoothly, guests who need assistance or whom are travelling with little ones will usually be the first to board, followed by those passengers who are lucky enough to be flying in the Business Premier, Premium Economy cabin, or happen to be a Gold, Gold Elite or Koru Member. It is then eventually time for all the Economy passengers to board in stages from row 60 at the back through to the 34 at the front.
The Economy Cabin
The 244-seat Economy cabin is split into two sections that are located from the middle of the wings through to the rear of the aircraft, mostly in a 3-4-3 configuration. The Economy cabin is inclusive of several SkyCouch rows which can be purchased for an additional cost and are subject to availability, but if you are travelling as a couple or a family and like the sound of extra space then I personally think it is worth the extra money. You can read more about my experience travelling on a SkyCouch by clicking here.
You'll be glad to know that the seat pitch is approximately 32-33", which is more than you would find with another airline operating on the route. The overhead storage bins drop-down from the ceiling and thus opening up the cabin a lot. I also like the use of LED mood lighting throughout; which adjusts accordingly depending on the progress of your flight. In total, there are five washrooms; two in the middle and three at the back.
My seat on this particular journey to Los Angeles was 35K, which is a preferred window "twin" seat located in a great location at the front of the cabin. There are just two seats in the row, which makes it the ideal location for couples, and you'll find there is a little bit of extra space by the window, since there is a seat missing in the row.
One of the things I like about flying Air New Zealand is the matter that you can choose your seat free of charge once booked or have one assigned for you at the check in counter. Alternatively, there are a small number of "Preferred Seats" within each cabin which can be purchased for £50 each way. You'll usually find these seats in more favourable locations on the aircraft and they may have a little more space, privacy or extra legroom too. Exit Row seats can also be pre-booked in this manner for £75 each way; however you'll have to ensure you meet to the requirements outlined by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Each seat features a very responsive 10.6” setback touch screen and on-demand in-flight entertainment system with over 500 hours worth of movies, TV shows, documentaries, audio and games to choose from. You can even plug in your own iPod using the dedicated iPod jack to view your own content on the big screen, there is also a USB socket available too, and a trinket tray and seat-back pocket where you can store all your devices, magazines and any other small items you have with you. You will also find an in-seat power port which is perfect for charging your laptop, iPad, Kindle or any other device you have with you, so long as you activated flight mode prior to departure. Note that some rows of three will share two power ports.
You'll find a small pillow, blanket and headphones waiting for you at your seat, If you're in need of some amenities then you'll be happy to know that you can order a toothbrush and paste, eye mask and earplugs through the in-flight entertainment system during the flight, or just ask the in-flight crew.
On Air New Zealand, you can also order drinks, snacks and other amenities at certain points throughout your journey via the system, plus there is a great concierge service with information about Air New Zealand destinations, the airline themselves, and the opportunity to leave feedback or participate in a survey.
The selection of both alcoholic, non-alcoholic, hot and cold beverages is very extensive, and there are a couple of snack options to choose from including crisps and cookies.
Doors to Automatic!
Once everyone was on board, the Captain and his team introduced themselves over the PA system and gave us a short run-down of the expected flight path, duration, weather and estimated time of arrival into Los Angeles.
Air New Zealand have always been known for their rather quirky and fun safety videos and their latest version is no different. Once the safety video was over we were soon enough making our way towards one of the runways at Heathrow and then ascending into the skies above to our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.
The Dinner Service
About ten to fifteen minutes after our initial departure the seatbelt signs were switched off the and the in-flight service began with an offering of ice cold water. Shortly after one of the flight attendants introduced themselves to me and presented me with a glass of Champagne as a Birthday token, which was a lovely surprise. It's little touches like that which make the airline stand out for me.
Following the initial drinks service, dinner was served at approximately 1 and a half to two hours since our departure from London. During the meal service you can choose from a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including a selection of fine New Zealand and international wines. Tea and coffee is served following your meal.
The menu for the Economy cabin on my flight was as follows:
Tomato and mint penne pasta salad
Warmed bread roll & butter
Main Course - a choice between either
Beef and ale casserole with cheddar potato mash and beans
Butter chicken curry with basmati rice and peas
Cheddar cheese and crackers
Honeycomb ice cream
Overall I thought the meal choice and the quality was very good, something of which seems to have been fairly consistent through all my flights with Air New Zealand. I opted for the Butter Chicken Curry and it was tasty but not too spicy - just how I like it. The Honeycomb Ice Cream is a pot of Salcombe Dairy's finest flavour and is literally to die-for... honestly I could have quite happily had another one!
The in-flight entertainment system on board in my opinion is very good, the best I have experienced; even after my recent flight on a Dreamliner. There is more than 500 hours worth of movies, tv shows, audio and games to enjoy. I was particularly impressed that they had recent blockbusters such as Gravity and 12 Years a Slave on board; both of which were victorious at the Academy Awards a few weeks before my journey. I then decided to switch of the screen and try and get some sleep whilst listening to "Kiwimania" on the good old radio channels.
The Afternoon Tea Service
Approximately 90 minutes prior to landing a light snack was served which consisted of a Chicken Caesar or a Cheese and Pickle Sandwich which was accompanied by a small Fruit Salad and a warm Fruit Scone with a pot of Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam. Once again the meal came with a selection of hot and cold drinks from the bar. I didn't like any of the sandwiches, so I just had the Fruit Salad and the Scone; both of which were very tasty.
By the time the trays were cleared away we were about to begin our descent into Los Angeles so I packed my things away, freshened up, and got ready for our arrival. During the course of our flight we were flying just ahead of dusk, and we actually arrived into LA just as the sun was setting. This was about 18:30 in the evening local time, which was approximately 45 minutes ahead of schedule, very good indeed!
I managed to snap this photo just before it was time to power off the electronic devices, just look at that sky!
Once we arrived at the gate and were clear to disembark the aircraft I proceeded downstairs to the customs and immigration desks where I encountered a short wait before collecting my suitcase and then it was time to catch my transfer.
Overall my flight with Air New Zealand on March 6 was once again very good, and they really do look after their customers and go out of their way to ensure everything is up to scratch. The in-flight crew were fantastic and are really proud to work for the "airline of middle-earth". I look forward to flying with Air New Zealand again sometime in the future.