Air New Zealand’s new NZ$14 million (~US$9.2 million) International Lounge Auckland opened on 29 September 2015 amid much fanfare. We stopped by to check it out.
Passengers used to hanging a right after security for lounges will need to adjust their compass, as the Air New Zealand lounge is now located to the left.
Passing underneath an understated sign…
…. visitors are immediately impressed with sweeping tarmac views as they make their way up the escalator.
At the top, a wall of abstract imagery welcomes passengers at the lounge entrance.
Air New Zealand have said that “at more than 2,000 square metres, the new lounge can comfortably seat more than 375 customers”. The seats are certainly comfortable.
The renovation of the international lounge at Auckland is part of Air New Zealand’s four-year, NZ$100 million lounge upgrade program. The lounge is designed by California architects Gensler, the firm behind the Air New Zealand-operated Star Alliance Lounge LAX.
Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that the lounge has plenty of power outlets, in fact over 300 (many tucked away unobtrusively). We did watch one passenger struggle with the covers to these. You need to apply pressure and then flip it back.
The lounge has a variety of seating options, although none of them feel particularly private or quiet.
Air New Zealand’s press release announcing the opening of the lounge touted “a new food theatre with cuisine cooked to order at meal times by the lounge’s resident chef as well as a buffet offering which customers can help themselves to at any time.”
Being smack bang in the middle of dinner time, it seemed like just what we needed.
Unfortunately the lounge’s “resident chef” was nowhere to be seen. The ‘Kung Pao Chicken’ seemed to have run out and been left to sit there unreplenished.
There was soup and bread rolls available at the other side of the buffet.
A few cold items were out on the central island buffet too.
When we next returned to the buffet, the noodles seemed to have been taken away to be replaced, while dregs of Thai Curry had been left to sit in the next bain-marie.
This was disappointing. It stands in stark contrast to the service in any Emirates lounge – where almost any item taken from the buffet is immediately replaced. Emirates are a key competitor to Air New Zealand for journeys between New Zealand and Europe (and Emirates operate a lounge in Auckland too). The food service in the new Air New Zealand lounge is an obvious area with room for improvement.
Over by the windows is a bar and barista station.
Coffee can be ordered using a touch-screen or through Air New Zealand’s mobile apps.
The lounge also has two self-service drink stations.
The selection of beer includes offerings of Steinlarger, Mac’s, Kirin and Stella Artois. The chilled beer glasses in the fridge are a nice touch.
We were surprised to see Johnnie Walker Red Label rounded out the selection of spirits.
Improved glassware seems to have been introduced with the new lounge.
In the corner of the lounge are an array of chaise lounges. These look out over the ‘indoor terrace’.
The ceiling looks like it can be opened, but despite the unseasonably nice weather that didn’t seem to be on the cards when we visited. We’d be interested in hearing the experiences of any readers who have found it open.
One thing that is immediately obvious in this lounge is that there is nowhere quiet for people to make telephone calls. We saw a number of people doing their best to have a private conversation on their phone and not succeeding. This is all too common in airline lounges of all persuasions these days.
We found the new Air New Zealand lounge did get somewhat crowded, although that is common among all airline lounges in Auckland. Emirates’ lounge in Auckland has been known to be standing room only, for example.
With the completion of this Auckland lounge, a matching lounge in Sydney and refit of its Boeing 777-200ER fleet, Air New Zealand is an airline with a recently revitalised hard product. While there are a few obvious exceptions, such as its lounges in Brisbane and Melbourne (which the airline has announced it will renovate) and dated Boeing 767 business class cabin, the opportunity for Air New Zealand is in getting its catering and service up to the standards of competitors.