A review of the inaugural Air New Zealand Business Class flight from Adelaide to Auckland on the Dreamliner (787-9).
|Airline:||Air New Zealand|
|Route:||Adelaide to Auckland (inaugural flight)|
|Flight duration:||4 hours|
|Redemption points:||17,500 Krisflyer miles (plus around $120 AUD in taxes)|
Adelaide was once a small city serviced by just a few international routes and a mixed bag of aircraft. Singapore Airlines offers their arguably tired A330 product, and Emirates their 777 (also our only first class option). But we’re fortunate to have Qatar Airways operating their shiny A350. And now Air New Zealand has come to the party with their 787-9 Dreamliner, offering an exciting new way for Adelaide-based travellers to travel across the pond. I was very keen to try out this new service on the first day of operation.
Booking the flight
I booked two Air New Zealand Business Class seats using Singapore Airlines Krisflyer points, earned through the American Express Explorer Card. Air New Zealand Business Class flights are a wonderful use of Krisflyer points, and a bit of a ‘sweet-spot’. You’d ordinarily pay 36,000 points or 35,500 points for an Adelaide to Auckland business seat on Qantas and Virgin respectively. However, the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer scheme offers great value at half the cost – 17,500 points, plus around $120 in taxes.
The Singapore Airlines website doesn’t support searches for partner award bookings; you’ll need to search via another Star Alliance partner that does. I was able to search for the flights via United Airlines and then called up Singapore Airlines to easily book the flights over the phone.
Check in and lounge access
With check-in completed promptly, and we were soon on our way to the lounge. Air New Zealand business class passengers use the Qantas Domestic Lounge, located before international security. The Lounge is large, airy and a perfectly adequate space to relax for a short time before flying. We arrived shortly before 10 am and enjoyed a morning coffee. Given that Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines operates a lounge in Adelaide Airport, it’s somewhat surprising that Air New Zealand uses a Qantas Lounge – though admittedly, the Singapore Airlines Lounge is very small.
At the gate and on board Air New Zealand Business Class
Shortly before 11 am, we headed through to clear international security. We appeared to be the last passengers through, and the clearance process only took five minutes. Inside the gate, we spotted a large media contingent celebrating the inaugural flight. Outside sat an Air New Zealand Dreamliner in it’s distinctive black and white livery.
Upon boarding, the soft purple lighting caught my eye. It provided a calm ambiance and enhanced the gorgeous interior of the Dreamliner. Miss Champagne Mile and I were promptly shown to our seats (4J and 5J). We waved good bye to Mr Champagne Mile and Baby Champagne Mile. They were seated just behind us in the Premium Economy cabin (luckily nabbing one of the bassinets).
An interesting seating format
The Air New Zealand Business Class Premier cabin features a 1-1-1 seat configuration in herringbone formation, which isn’t something we usually see in business class. While this format provides every traveller with direct aisle access, all seats diagonally face inwards towards the front of the plane. You’ll find row ‘A’ to the left with its own private aisle, with ‘J’ and ‘K’ sharing a walkway. Seats in row ‘A’ would definitely be my pick for solo travellers. These seats feature more privacy and a greater amount of overhead storage.
With a seat width of 22 inches (56 centimetres), it’s arguably on the narrow side for those with broad shoulders. The upholstery is soft, sand coloured leather and features high, non retractable privacy barriers on each side. The seat flips to create a bed with a foam mattress, allowing passengers to recline for taxi, takeoff and landing.
An ottoman at the foot of the seat provides clever storage space and acts as a handy perch for a dining companion. The in-seat dining table is very versatile – it can be lifted up to allow aisle access while in use, meaning you can exit your seat during meal service. Travellers will find an 11 inch LCD screen and entertainment controls built into the left hand privacy divider. Alternately, seat controls are found on the right hand side.
Once we’d settled in, I happily accepted a glass of champagne and the menu. Air New Zealand Business Class currently serves Billecart-Salmon NV, my favourite non-vintage champagne. The crew were very proactive with pre-departure refreshments, and treated me to a second glass before take off. The service compared very favourably with long-haul Cathay Pacific business class, and other trans-Tasman business class services, where in my experience, you’ll generally only be offered water or juice.
My first experience flying on a Dreamliner certainly didn’t disappoint. Upon takeoff, you’re struck by the quiet hum of the engines and the airy windows which lulled me into a sense of relaxation – even with a three year old seated next to me.
Service commences in Air New Zealand Business Class
As soon as the seat belt sign switched off, the crew came around to take drinks and meal orders. Unfortunately the published menu had changed (a catering issue had been encountered in Adelaide), but the crew reeled off a number of other tempting options and I selected my starter, main and dessert.
I stuck with Billecart-Salmon Champagne throughout the meal. Air New Zealand takes its Business Class wine selection very seriously. No less than two sparkling wines, three whites and three reds were on offer during the flight, and several crew members were identified as ‘wine specialists’, having completed intensive training in food and wine matching.
Dining in Air New Zealand Business Class
Before long, we were offered crusty bread rolls and a serve of warm garlic bread. It proved to be a great hit with Miss Champagne Mile. A small bottle of ‘The Village Press’ olive oil from Hawke’s Bay accompanied the tasty and fresh bread.
Shortly thereafter, my starter arrived. I’d selected the heirloom tomato and burrata salad, with rocket and mustard dressing. It was beautifully fresh and the tomatoes were of excellent quality. For main course, I chose the pork belly with pumpkin mash. Pleasant. Miss Champagne Mile skipped the starter and opted for a plain chicken breast for her main course.
For dessert, I opted for the chocolate tart with coffee cream, while Miss Champagne Mile enjoyed a scoop of chocolate icrecream.
Following the meal service, we had around 1 hour 45 minutes till arrival – just enough time for a movie. Miss Champagne Mile watched Frozen, and I ambled back to the premium economy cabin. Baby Champagne Mile was enjoying the view from out of the window.
Further back in Air New Zealand Premium Economy
Air New Zealand describes the 21-seat premium economy cabin as ‘business-lite’. The seats are smartly finished in black leather and are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. Each seat provides a pitch of 41 inches and a width of 19.3 inches. During our flight, the premium economy cabin enjoyed the ‘Business Premier’ menu. However, I’m unsure if this is normal, or due to the catering mishap mentioned above.
The remaining hour and a half of our flight passed quickly, and soon it was time to land. Impressively, the Purser walked the entire business cabin to personally farewell each guest. We were invited up to take a quick peek at the cockpit with the children upon landing, and Miss Champagne Mile enjoyed a chat with the pilots.
Air New Zealand Business Class – verdict
All in all, I really enjoyed my journey on the Air New Zealand Dreamliner across the Tasman (and it helped that the children were generally well-settled during the flight). At just 17,500 Singapore Airlines Krisflyer points to book a one way Air New Zealand Business Class Premier ticket from Australian cities to Auckland, an award ticket on this flight represents great value. Along with the friendly in-flight service, the general ambience of the Dreamliner made for a very relaxing flight and I felt very refreshed on arrival.
Air New Zealand is now operating three weekly return services from Adelaide to Auckland on the Dreamliner until 25 March 2018, so Adelaide-based travellers should take advantage of the service while they can. Full timetable details can be found here.
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