This review is based on my flight from Auckland – Shanghai
Business premier and eligible Star Alliance status members have access to Air NZ's Koru flagship lounge at Auckland Airport. The self-service lounge was not busy when I visited at around 10pm. The food and beverage selection was extensive and appetizing, with a focus on organic and fresh local produce, and a good range of Kiwi wines.
Passengers in business class, premium economy and Star Alliance Gold status holders were given priority. Once in my seat, I was offered a glass of New Zealand sparkling wine (Air NZ does not serve champagne), while the purser personally welcomed every passenger in preparation for the 12-hour journey – a nice touch.
The Auckland-Shanghai flight is operated by Air NZ's new Dreamliner. The plane is fitted with 18 Business Premier seats in a spacious 1-1-1 configuration. Each seat is upholstered in sleek white leather, offering a generous 80-inch pitch and 22 inches in width. At the touch of the controls, the seat converts into a 180-degree lie-flat-bed equipped with a snug memory foam mattress. Entertainment comes via 11-inch high-definition touchscreens. The noise-cancelling headphones, large pillows and blankets provided made for a cosy and pleasant cabin atmosphere.
The seat, when converted, offered a good amount of sleep on this overnight flight. The on-demand selection comprised a wide selection of recent movies, as well as TV programmes, all available in multiple languages.
A brilliant feature of Air NZ's entertainment system is that you can order snacks and beverages through your personal touchscreen monitors, avoiding the awkward call button. I also loved the fact that you could compile a list of favourite movies and songs and have it emailed to you after the flight, so that you'll never again forget the title of "that movie you saw on the plane".
We took off pretty much on time, and hot towels were handed out once airborne. A first round of drinks was offered about 20 minutes into the flight. This was followed by a late supper. For mains, there were three choices: Wakanui beef burger; Sichuan-style twice-cooked pork belly; or Hapuka red coconut curry with brown rice. I had the burger and sampled a small serving of the fish curry – both were delicious. Afterward, the excellent crew served a selection of dessert including ice cream and New Zealand cheese served with pear relish, which was also outstanding.
For those who wanted to go to sleep sooner, a Fast Dine option, comprising soup and dessert, was available.
For breakfast, served about 90 minutes before arrival into Shanghai, I had the caramelised apple waffles with passion fruit compote – a dish created by acclaimed Kiwi chef Peter Gordon – and loved it for being hot and crispy on the outside and perfectly soft and buttery inside.
Air NZ is just super cool. From arriving at the airline's premium check-in and immigration clearance facilities in Auckland to arrival into Shanghai, the experience was absolutely flawless. What sets Air NZ apart from the competition are the very casual, yet utmost professional crew, and the amount of innovation used on-board the aircraft, e.g. being able to order via the IFE. Another highlight was the on-board catering. You could really tell that the people in charge of the in-flight meals had thought about what they were doing, placing emphasis on fresh produce and local favourites. That said, Air NZ is a true ambassador for New Zealand, particularly observed through the obvious pride its crew takes in delivering a local and certainly memorable experience.
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