Monday, May 16, 2016

Flying Air New Zealand

During my recent trip to New Zealand, I took a flight pair on Air New Zealand. It was my first time on the carrier but I hope it won’t be my last.

I chose Air New Zealand to fly from Auckland (AKL) to Christchurch (CHC) and back, largely because of its reputation and because Jetstar, the discount carrier I also considered, seemed too steeped in the annoying practice of nickel-and-diming its customers through what the airline industry has taken to calling à la carte pricing. The fare on Air New Zealand included a checked bag as well as other perks.

Air New Zealand jets on the tarmac at AKL
Air New Zealand is certified with the four-star airline rating for the quality of its onboard product and service by AirlineQuality.com, the company that conducts the annual SKYTRAX survey.

In 2015, Air New Zealand was No. 17 of the World’s 100 Best Airlines, while Jetstar was No. 41, behind Virgin America (NASDAQ:VA) at No. 26, but ahead of all other U.S. airlines. Jetstar was awarded Best Low-Cost Airline in Australia/Pacific by SKYTRAX.

In addition to its piecemeal approach to pricing, the Jetstar seats would have been a tight fit for my six-foot frame. According to SeatGuru.com, the seats were 17.9 inches wide but the pitch on both versions of the narrow body planes Jetstar operates is a mere 29 inches, less than any U.S. airline except Spirit. Air New Zealand’s narrow-body planes have seats that are 17 inches wide but pitch up to 34 inches.

Selecting my seat
When I selected my seats for my Air New Zealand flights, I was a bit surprised that it cost an additional US$5 to $10 depending on the seats chosen. While I realize many airlines have adopted this practice, I still find it annoying in the extreme, but it was better than the competition. On Jetstar, standard seat selection was $5 each way, “up-front seats” $11 each way and extra legroom was $24 each way.

Check-in at AKL was quite smooth, though passengers are expected to generate and attach their own baggage tags. Again, it seems that airlines around the world are increasingly expecting their passengers to perform tasks that airline employees have handled up until recently.

Security at AKL for my domestic flight was handled very smoothly – quick, efficient and polite. When I waited to be waived through before walking through the scanner, the helpful rep said, “Nah. Ya don’t hafta do thet hayer.” I explained that TSA workers have no sense of humor about such things, and she indicated she understood but said that New Zealanders tend to be more laid-back and polite than Americans can be. No argument from me.

After clearing security, I went to the airline’s lounge to inquire about purchasing a day pass or one-time pass. Unfortunately, they do not sell them, nor do they honor fellow Star Alliance partner United Air Lines’ (NYSE:UAL) one-time passes issued in conjunction with the airline’s affinity credit card, so no dice there.

Fortunately, the Auckland airport has a number of outlets that sell nibbles and adult beverages, has plenty of seating and complimentary Wi-Fi, so I was able to get some things done prior to departure.

Departure went quite smoothly, with Air New Zealand using both the front and rear doors for boarding. Why more carriers can’t do that I do not understand.

A sense of humour!
Once airborne, the flight attendants completed a beverage service of soft drinks on the hour-long flight and even managed to get things cleaned up before we landed in Christchurch.

One of the high points of the trip was the Kiwi sense of humor. Subtle, dry and sometimes a bit droll, it reminds me in many ways of both the Aussie and the British senses of humor. In this case, that sense of humor was manifest in the text on the air sickness bag.

While some carriers opt for a plain colored bag without any embellishment or logo, Air New Zealand went the opposite route. The first legend, in English, said, “Feeling unwell?” It was followed by what Google Translate confirms is the same sentiment in Maori, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, French and at least two other languages. The cappers, however, were the last two entries.

The penultimate statement said, “How ever you say it, it all comes out the same,” while the last said, “If affected by motion sickness, use this bag and not your carry on.” I found that hysterical. The local gentleman sitting next to me didn’t understand why I thought it was all that funny.

Sadly, the carrier has moved on from the safety video that commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition which, coincidentally, created a ruckus over its alleged objectification of women. The video they showed was just as informative but hardly as entertaining as this one:



All in all, I only took two, one-hour flights so it is hardly a basis for a thorough judgment. In general, though, the people were pleasant and efficient, things went smoothly, and we were treated like passengers and not hostages.

Provided the price is right, I will not hesitate to fly them again.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
Click on photos to view larger images

#FlyAirNZ



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