When needing to fly in the evening from Sydney to Auckland, choices are severely limited. Qantas fly a Boeing 737 with 37″ pitch in business class and Air New Zealand offer a dated Boeing 767 with 50″ pitch in business class. For the extra space of a widebody aircraft, we thought we would take Air New Zealand.
Having checked in online, we arrived very late at the airport. Having maximised our time in the office prior to departure, we rushed through the airport. We passed through express emigration lane using an old express departures card, meaning we could skip the check-in counter entirely (handy given that we’ve previously experienced long lines at Air New Zealand’s Sydney checkin). At the gate, the flight hadn’t yet started boarding. We were paged to the podium so they could verify our passport information.
It wasn’t long before boarding started, first for those with children and then for business class and people with a long list of frequent flyer statuses. Eagle-eyed readers will note that the priority boarding signage doesn’t actually list business class.
The slight problem with boarding early on this aircraft is that every single passenger boards through the front and files through the (very narrow) business class aisles. We were repeatedly knocked by economy passengers’ baggage with only one of those passengers bothering to apologise. We were also hit by a bedroom pillow someone was carrying, which was slightly comical. In summary, we’d suggest boarding last when flying on Air New Zealand’s Boeing 767s.
After boarding we sat in our seat for some time, completely ignored by the crew. In retrospect we should have seen this as setting the scene for the service on the flight. When the cabin had mostly filled up, we were served New Zealand sparkling wine as a pre-departure beverage.
Prior to boarding, the crew had taken one IFE screen per pair of seats out of the armrests so that passengers could watch the 4 minute 55 second-long
Air New Zealand commercial safety video.
We had a relatively long taxi and then departed straight out to Auckland. About 40 minutes after takeoff, the crew came through the cabin taking meal orders. It would be another 30 minutes, for a total of 1 hour 10 minutes after takeoff, before there was any sign of drinks in the business class cabin. Given this sector is barely 3 hours long, we consider that to be unfortunate.
Drinks were served from a trolley starting in the back left hand corner of the cabin. The menu listed Charles Heidsick Champagne, although we were offered Quartz Reef sparkling wine at first by the staff when in the air and had to insist on Champagne, which was right there on the cart.
After finishing our drink, we waited well over 20 minutes before taking matters into our own hands and walking forward to the galley to ask if it would be too much trouble to have a refill.
As a starter, we had the five spiced chicken breast with roast capsicum and eggplant salad.
We had ordered the confit chicken following take-off. Yet we were served the hoisin pork belly without comment. Given how long it had taken to even get that (the flight at that point being nearly 2/3rds over), we just ate it. It was tasty, certainly a lot better than the main we were served when we flew Air New Zealand’s flagship Business Premier product from San Francisco to Auckland.
For dessert we had the chocolate and cardamom marquise.
As we were coming into land in Auckland, we washed this down with a dessert wine. There seemed to only be 2 crew serving a cabin of 24 business class seats, as the flight service manager was working the galley. We would be interested in insiders’ comments as to whether this is standard operating procedure.
For some reason one of the passengers got up during the flight to retrieve their bag and left the overhead compartment open. A number of crew walked past without closing it, which we found surprising from a safety perspective.
The entertainment system had to be reset multiple times during the flight.
And also claimed the flight would be a bit longer than anticipated…
As the screens come out of the armrests, they need to be stored for take-off and landing so there is no gate-to-gate video entertainment in business class on this aircraft.
Electronic devices must also be switched off for take-off and landing on this aircraft.
We were spectacularly unimpressed with the service offered on this flight. The amount of time it took to get anything would have been considered poor in economy class, let alone in business class. It grated to have the flight attendants make so many PA announcements about the fact that we were flying ‘the Airline of the Year’, given that we hadn’t experienced business class service close to this disappointing since… well, the last time we flew business class on Air New Zealand.