I recently flew to and from Los Angeles with Air New Zealand; whom now happen to be one of my favourite airlines. To date I have experienced their Economy and Economy SkyCouch products, now I would like to share my experience of their Premium Economy cabin with you from the moment I boarded the aircraft in LA to the moment I arrived at the gate in London.
I arrived at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International (LAX) airport around 14:00 local time, which was exactly three hours before my flight to where I proceeded directly to the Premium Check-In area which is open to passengers who are travelling within the Business Premier and Premium Economy cabins along with those who are Star Alliance Gold or Koru Club Members. To my delight there was not a soul in sight therefore I proceeded straight to the available agent at the desk who was very friendly and chatty too. Once she had checked all my documents, issued my boarding pass and put the very bright orange priority bag-tag on my suitcase she wished me a great flight and I dropped off my suitcase at the the TSA drop-off point and then headed on up the stairs and through security. It didn’t really take me that long to get through security, although I was able to use the fast-track lane which can be a great help during busy periods. I would probably say it took me a little over fifteen minutes from the time I arrived at the terminal to when I entered the departures area, which isn’t bad at all.
The Departures Lounge
Once I was through the departure lounge it was time to grab a bite to eat and look in the shops before the 10 and a half hour or so flight to London. The terminal features more than 180,000 square feet of retail and dining spaces and the Air New Zealand managed Star Alliance Lounge features an open-air terrace that overlooks the runway. How cool is that!?
After grabbing a bite to eat from one of the restaurants I thought it would be rude not to check out the shops within the terminal and ended up buying a couple of bits and pieces for family and friends. I then headed over to the gate and took advantage of the complimentary wi-fi to send off a few e-mails and Skype home before the priority-boarding announcement was made.
The initial boarding process began approximately 45 minutes prior to our scheduled departure time of 17:00 PDT; commencing with those with young children or whom need assistance, followed by the passengers travelling in the Business Premier and then the Premium Economy and Economy cabins. The process itself was very quick and hassle-free, within moments I was walking along the corridor towards the air bridge and I could see my home for the next 10 hours or so which happened to be the "All Blacks" Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKQ).
Upon stepping aboard the aircraft I received a very warm welcome from the flight attendants whom greeted me with a warm and friendly "Kia Ora" as they checked my boarding pass before directing me towards the Premium Economy cabin and my allocated seat.
The Premium Economy Cabin
The Premium Economy cabin is located in the middle of the aircraft just forward from the wings and has a maximum capacity of 44 passengers. There are two dedicated washrooms located either side at the rear of the cabin both of which are a decent size and feature wallpaper, but I'll get on to that a little later.
Once I reached my aisle seat, 24B, and I had put my things away and was seated; the two Premium flight attendants on my flight introduced themselves. Both were extremely friendly and funnily enough recognised me from a previous flight. After chatting for a little while I was offered a hot towel and then presented with the in-flight menu.
The Premium Economy Spaceseat is really what sets Air New Zealand above their competitors within the industry. Each of the comfortable and ergonomically designed spaceseats has a very generous seat-pitch of 42 inches, which actually manually tilts and reclines into its own shell; not invading the space of the person sitting behind you.
Although my seat, 24B, was not by the window; I still had a perfect view outside due to the layout of the cabin, which is in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats on the outer edges have been designed ever-so-slightly at an angle towards the window making them ideal for those whom are travelling alone or whom wish to get some uninterrupted sleep or work done during the flight. The seats running through the middle of the cabin are perfect for those travelling as a couple since both have direct-access to the aisles; but wherever you sit... you will still receive the same features and exceptional service, just with a different perspective.
Each Spaceseat 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. In Premium Economy 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.
You’ll find a large pillow, fleece blanket and noise-cancelling headphones waiting for you along with an amenity kit which contains a toothbrush and paste, an eye mask, flight socks, earplugs, a pen and a couple of Clarins amenities. You’ll also find there is a cute little purple beanbag to rest your feet on. And there will be a bottle of water waiting for you beside your seat.
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 about 3-4 snack options to choose from in Premium Economy including crisps, cookies and of course, chocolate! You will also find a little basket full of the snacks at the back of the cabin which you are free to help yourself to.
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 London.
It was then time for the aircraft doors to be closed and we pushed back on-time whilst watching the latest Air New Zealand in-flight safety video. We departed as per schedule from Los Angeles and as we were travelling down the runway I could see the AirNZ Smaug aircraft beside a couple of A380s which was pretty cool. We took off in a westerly direction over the golden beaches and the Pacific Ocean before making a 180-degree turn and setting on a series of north-easterly courses which would take us over the USA and Canada before reaching the Atlantic.
The Dinner Service
Upon reaching our cruising altitude of 10058m the inflight service began with a pre-dinner drink of either Sparkling Wine or Orange Juice. About fifty minutes into the flight I was presented with a tray which contained a Smoked salmon starter, a Banana and chocolate mousse cake for dessert, and a side plate with cheese and crackers. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages were served during dinner including a selection of fine New Zealand and international wines.
The bread selection consisted of garlic, olive, or wholegrain which were accompanied by a little bottle of New Zealand olive oil and a sachet of butter. Unfortunately I am not a lover of smoked salmon but the crew were more than happy to fetch me a fruit plate instead consisting of pineapple, strawberry, kiwi, and orange; which more than enough made up for it.
Once I had finished my starter my order for the main course was taken. There were three options to choose from:-
- Roasted chicken breast with a smoked garlic parsnip mash, roasted beetroots, broccolini and a mustard vinaigrette.
- Slow cooked chillied beer short rib with cashews, fragrant red rice and a coriander salsa.
- New Zealand salmon with a walnut tarator crust; crushed chickpeas, chard and peppers with a tahini yoghurt dressing.
I opted for the Chicken which turned out be a good choice and proved to be very popular on the flight. The parsnip mash was something different bit a nice change to see on an airline as opposed to mashed potato, which funnily enough I loathe.
The Banana and chocolate mousse cake was well how do I put it... supercalifragilisticexpalidocious. I've got quite a sweet tooth and love a bit of chocolate now and then, but banana and chocolate together is like a marriage made in heaven. I even had a banana and chocolate cake for my birthday!
Once my tray was cleared away tea and coffee was served, which also included a selection of fruit teas including orange, berries and camomile which was good to see.
Overall my dinner experience in Premium was very impressive, but after taking a photo of everything and then writing about it for a little while before the lights were dimmed; which was then the perfect time to make some use out of the IFE system.
I tend to watch a movie or two before manually adjusting my seat to a somewhat comfortable snoozing position, keep on the headphones and listen to some tunes. But that's just what I like to do on a night flight, it really depends whether you want to get some sleep or just catch up on all the movies/tv shows you may have missed.
The journey across the Atlantic was a little bit bumpy at times, but the Captain did a great job to minimise the turbulence wherever possible and the seat belt sign was only on for a couple of hours in the night. At the end of the day it didn't bother me too much, we had a tail wind of approximately 191km/h which meant our estimated time of arrival into London would be roughly an hour ahead of schedule, so no complaints there.
I mentioned a little earlier in my review that there are two dedicated washrooms for use by passengers in the Premium Economy cabin. One of these is the standard-size you would find on any typical long-range aircraft and the other is slightly larger, however they both have a feature wall and music piped-in!
You probably think I am crazy but in all the airlines I have flown with, Air New Zealand are the first airline I have come across to do this. It's a little bit quirky and something different, but everyone talks about it! For instance, the feature wall in one of the washrooms is of a bookcase. You may not be able to make out the titles in the photograph above, but some of them come across as quite humorous.
There is also the current trend around the world which sees people, celebrities and even animals taking a #selfie everywhere they go, could this be the start of the #airplanewashroomselfie? I hope not!
The Breakfast Service
Around about an hour and a three quarters before our arrival the lights were turned on and the crew passed through the cabin with hot towels prior to beginning the breakfast service.
You are presented with a tray which contains a fresh fruit salad, strawberry yoghurt and a side plate to use for the warmed croissants later which is served with strawberry jam or marmalade. You are then offered a choice of granola or museli-type cereal and tea, coffee, fruit juice or water.
For a change I thought that I would try the granola which turned out to be very nice indeed, something different from my usual cereal at home.
Once your bowls are cleared away the warmed croissants are served straight from the oven and are very tasty indeed, plus the size is rather cute too.
Following this, you are able to choose a hot meal between either a Quesadilla with scrambled eggs, cheese, scallions and black beans with grilled chorizo and a tomatillo and roasted corn salsa; or a Belgian waffle with caramelised apples and a dulce de leche caramel sauce.
Since it was my birthday a couple of days ago I thought I would try the Belgian waffle with caramelised apples minus the dulce de leche sauce... It was delicious!
By the time I had finished breakfast there was about 20 minutes to go before we began our descent into London Heathrow so I freshened myself up, stowed away my personal belongings and took my seat. In the end we touched down on the tarmac around 09:58 GMT, 47 minutes early which was great.
Overall, my Premium Economy experience with Air New Zealand was pretty spectacular, and I cannot seem to think of anything bad to say about it. Their premium product is far superior than what you currently get with airlines such as BA and Virgin; plus in my personal opinion the crew are always extremely friendly, helpful and incredibly proud to work for "the airline of middle-earth". I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it at all, and both the Premium flight attendants on my journey were absolutely fantastic.
Now I can say that I have experienced Air New Zealand’s Economy, Economy SkyCouch and Premium Economy products; and they are all great... all that remains is for me to see why so many people shout about their Business Premier cabin in the future.
My rating: 9/10
Review conducted on NZ2 departing LAX on 10th March, 2014.