Review: Air New Zealand


Air New Zealand:

In Air:

Air New Zealand, is the country’s national airline. It’s my airline of choice for flights within and to New Zealand, primarily because it has the greatest number of flight options.

I’ve also used it across the Pacific from Australia via a connection in Auckland to LAX. Air NZ flights across the Tasman Sea between Australia and NZ offer a variety of inflight services based on a user-pays system. If you purchase ‘The Lot’ option in economy, you get access to its decent IFE menu (late release films, documentaries, maps, music, popular television shows, many with a Kiwi slant), meals, drinks and more leg room. It’s not Premium Economy as represented by Qantas and other airlines that have embraced this in-between world dividing business service pleasures and economy service torture but ‘The Lot’ option makes maximum use of the economy class cabin’s restricted space. If you choose the bare minimum no frills option, that’s what you get, no baggage allowance, no food, no entertainment and no drinks. Basically all you get is a seat and a copy of Air NZ’s Kia Ora inflight magazine as entertainment. If you want more, you pay more on board. It’s cheaper to pre-purchase the upgrade options when first making the booking.

Food served on Air NZ flights in the economy cabin can be strangely parochial, not at all representative of the country’s current exciting food and wine scene. On a flight from Auckland to LAX, I was served cheese tortellini in a bland cheesy tomato sauce, a cheesecake dessert and a small block of cheddar like cheese with crackers, three shrivelled red grapes and one dried apricot that looked like possum scat. Even the small side salad had a sprinkling of chewy mozzarella-like cheese strewn over it. The chicken or beef options had run out by the time the trolley made it to the back of the bus. Luckily I’m not lactose intolerant. The absence of thought put into this meal that consisted primarily of cheese struck me as downright weird. New Zealand’s green fields are prime dairy country, but this was a ridiculous gilding of the lily. For wine there was, wait for it… a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough or a red blend from Hawke’s Bay, neither of which was memorable. Once I had guzzled the contents from my small plastic bottle of wine, it was the end of the drink’s service on that flight. I may as well have been at a Temperance Society’s meeting in Fyfe.

The sole advantage of flying economy across the Pacific with Air NZ was having access to its IFE system. I watched the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, starting with the finding of the ring at take-off in Auckland and finishing with the destruction of the ring in LA. There was about twenty minute’s flight time remaining before landing, coincidentally perfect.

Cabin service varied from warmly cheery to coldly abrupt, very much a representation of the Kiwi national character which I describe as being a cross between Polynesian sunniness and Scottish cloudiness. Many Scots migrants to NZ brought with them a cheap mean streak and a rigorous attention to detail. Many Polynesians brought an attitude of indifference to service basics and genuine friendliness. Sometimes the two traits combine winningly though often they’re at cross purposes and you get lazy and rude instead of warm and efficient.

Comfort levels in Air NZ’s economy seats are tolerable. It helps to be a contortionist when flying long haul international but I’m not a contortionist. I was given a small pillow and thin blanket. The seat recline was typically minimal and I could have sworn there was a hobbit stuck under the seat padding who poked my buttocks with a wooden walking staff throughout a long flight.

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