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Review of Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy Without Going to Auckland

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS

Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM)
Departed: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Arrived: London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 23A (window)
Length: 9.5 hours

Cheers: The product is great and those New Zealand accents — have to love them.
Jeers: Argh, why does my elbow keep pausing my movie?
Bottom Line: Having the word “economy” in the name seems inappropriate; it is anything but economy.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

THE FULL PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW

I recently had the opportunity to take a flight from Los Angelas International Airport (LAX) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes).

Say what? How can I fly from an American city to a foreign city on Air New Zealand? It is because of the Fifth Freedom of the Air, which allows Air New Zealand to operate their flight from Auckland to London, via LAX. Most people probably do not think about taking Air New Zealand to London, but they are a unique option that I wanted to check out.

This was my first Air New Zealand flight — kind of. I actually flew on the exact same plane earlier, when it was brand spanking new. ZK-OKM was Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER and I was able to hitch a ride on part of the delivery flight from Paine Field (PAE) to LAX. Since it wasn’t a real revenue flight with standard service (and only 2.5hrs long), I was looking forward to checking out the full product on a much longer flight.

WIth the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

With the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

When I first toured the airline’s 777-300ER, I had a hard time placing exactly what Premium Economy was. To me, it looked like something one would find in a long-haul business class.

Air New Zealand has had Premium economy on their 777-200s, but this product is very different. On the -200, it is your standard economy seat, in a 3-3-3 layout with some extra recline and seat-pitch. Not bad, but the new Premium Economy is in a whole other league.

Not only are the seats in a 2-2-2 layout, they don’t face forward. The first question you have to ask yourself when booking your ticket is if you want to interact with the person next to you or not. If you want to talk, dine or even snuggle with your seatmate, you probably want to go for the inner-space seats, located in the middle of the plane. Even though the seats are slightly tilted away from each other, they easily allow people to interact if desired.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

If you are on your own or want some additional privacy, then getting a seat in the outer-space is for you. Each seat is tilted towards the window and gives more of a sense of privacy.

Having my seat tilted towards the window made taking off even a better experience than usual. It was a little weird at first orienting myself when I was tilted, but after a few minutes, I didn’t even notice anymore.

Since the seat in front is not directly centered, the video screen and tray table popped out and slid over for easier usability. I had plenty of room to work on my large laptop, while watching a movie.

The in-flight entertainment system was good enough and when browsing through the eight pages of movies, I found quite a few that I was interested in seeing. The system was quite slick, having a favorite list, that I could add what I wanted to watch later, so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to watch.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

The main downside of the product was the location of the remote — which was right by my left elbow. I ended up hitting it more than once, causing issues with my viewing experience. I unlatched the remote and let it hang, so I wouldn’t hit it anymore — problem solved.

The remote is not really needed, since the you can do everything (except use the keyboard, turn on your light or call a flight attendant) via the touch screen.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

One of the coolest things on the in-flight entertainment system is the “My Flight” menu. This really gives you an itinerary of where you are at during the flight, when you will eat and when the lights will be bright or dimmed. This was great to be able to plan out when I wanted to sleep, when service would start and even when I could order food on demand.

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but desert too?

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but dessert too?

The food wasn’t too shabby. For dinner I was first served smoked salmon, watercress shoots, toasted almonds and burnt orange mayonnaise. For the main meal I had a choice between lamb, cod and chicken. I went with the lamb with potatoes and minted peas.

Then for desert was raspberry almond cheesecake, but it was odd, since the dessert was put on my tray with my appetizer and remained there until I was done with my meal. Maybe it is a cultural thing?

For breakfast, I had a choice between a chicken herb sausage cheese omelet, or Belgian waffles with strawberries. Not going to lie, I had a hard time making that decision, but I decided on sleeping through the meal, which I later regretted.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

The seats in Premium Economy do not fully recline, but it does go back farther than economy and there is a little beanbag pillow to put your legs up.

Although the product is slick, you don’t get all the bells and whistles as Business Class — which makes sense. Both premium classes get priority ticket counter access, but only business gets access to the Koru Club Lounge. If you want to get into the lounge, you can buy a day pass for $55, which isn’t a bad deal.

From Los Angeles to London, economy class normally runs around $1200 and Premium Economy runs about $2400. Not bad considering the product one gets when upgrading.

My biggest suggestion is to change the name of this product. The old Premium Economy was just that. An economy product with a bit more leg room, but they were the same seats as economy, with the same seat layout.

The new Premium Economy is much closer to Business Class than economy and not changing the name doesn’t do the product justice. Even calling it something like “Kiwi Class” would be beneficial, because when most people fly and see a “premium economy” seat, they just think space a few inches of extra, but this product is much more than that.

MORE PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY:

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33 comments to Review of Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy Without Going to Auckland

  • Colin

    Nice writeup! Didn’t you depart from LAX not SEA thou? =P

  • Cook

    If this was a legacy US carrier, I’d call it “Chapter 11 Business Class.” Whatever it is, “Economy” does not belong in the title, expecially when the the fare is about 2x their “Economy Economy Class.” Looks very nice.

  • Nancy M

    i didn’t know that one needs permission to take photos under 10k – is that only in the USA? i know i’ve taken lots of pix on the ground or shortly after taking off from many US (and overseas) airports, without getting the plastic handcuffs slapped on me

    • Hey Nancy,

      It is a rule from the FAA. Unless you have permission, you are not allowed to have any electronic devices on under 10,000 feet. Is a camera going to be able to take down a plane? I surely hope not. It is a stupid rule, but the FAA has been going after people.

      Realistically with all the photos I have taken through all my years (even without permission), I have only been told once to turn off my camera until hitting 10k.

      David

      • John Lindsay

        And now is 2014 and magically “personal electronic devices” all OK now. But not in Australia. We still have special avionics damaging electrons in Australia.

  • Richard D NZ

    Great post David!
    As a New Zealander myself, it is a bit of a cultural thing to put the desert down with the entree and main meals.
    A lot of critics have said that ANZ Premium Economy is more like Business class and ANZ Business class is much more like First class.

    • Thanks Richard for the desert thing — I was expecting it had to be something along those lines.

      And I have to agree. But as a business product, ANZ’s Prem Economy would come up short due to not reclining much. If it had a fold flat recline, it would be better than many other business products.

      Many airlines in long haul first are going to a suite-type product. I think ANZ’s current Biz would compete (esp in price) but not in product head-to-head. Of course you will have to wait for my Business Premiere review that should be posting next week :).

      David

      • Richard D NZ

        But if you look at what you get in Biz Prem like the free bars, free access to the Koru lounge, Ammentities kit, luxury beds, luxury bathrooms, showers at the Koru lounge ect.
        It is allot like a first class setting.

  • RH Hastings

    What’s that little bottle in the food photo lower left below the Anchor butter?

    As usual, great review! Great photos! Yummie! Economy couldn’t be better these days! Thanks,

  • Richard D

    I like that they use New Zealand cheeses and as I assume Wine also on flights from LAX to LHR.
    Was it New Zealand olive oil to??

  • Brian B

    Considering Prem Econ for SFO-AKL for SO and I. Obviously, we’d take the center “social” seating arrangements. But after viewing several YouTubes on this product, is it just me, or does the space between seats seem rather tight? Could it be the taller divider (seat front) ahead of me could cause a sense of claustrophobia?

    Thanks for your review, and I agree with you and others, the word “economy” needs to be be replaced from the product name. How about “Pre Business Class”? Or “movin’ on up”? :-)

  • Alan G

    Nice review. Looking at pre/econ flights to London from Sydney or Melbourne. One deal is with ANZ, economy to Auckland then pre/econ from Auckland to London direct. Recommended?

  • Deirdre

    Flew prem econ Auckland to San Francisco and my seat did not look anything like this! It has hard sides and if anything was narrower than the seat I had flying from Wellington to Auckland.

  • John Lindsay

    I can’t find anywhere that states what the recline of the premium economy seats is.

    Nothing on Air NZ’s site other than mentioning the hard shell and how the seat in front won’t recline into your space.

    Nothing on seat guru other than “standard”.

    Various forums with members saying that had problems making the seat recline at all.

    What is the recline?

    jsl

    • Hey John,

      The big thing is to make sure you are on a 777-300ER vs the -200. I don’t think the -200s have been updated yet and still have the old product.

      The PremEcon is hard shelled, so the seat in front is not coming back. I don’t remember the exact recline, but it is more than your standard seat and not close to lie flat.

      I still think this is the best premecon long haul product that I have been on still.

      David

  • paul harvey

    Well I guess you were just lucky. We just did San Francisco to Auckland and back and its a very different world. Cramped economy style seats with a bit more legroom and very restricted recline is not what we were expecting based on reviews like this. Be warned air new Zealand has not fitted too many planes to this standard and we had a 747 out and 777 back which were virtually the same. This review needs to be taken with a very large pinch of realism……

  • Rick

    Paul Harvey, you don’t have to be “lucky” to get the new Spaceseat — a simple check of the seat map when booking your flight will show that the new Spaceseat Premium Economy is available on the 777-300, as the author also indicated. Don’t complain about your experience because you didn’t do the smart thing and book the 777-300 plane. It’s also clearly stated on the Air NZ Premium Economy page of their website and elsewhere.

  • Ted

    I fly 3/4times a year LHR-LAX route with Air New Zealand…no one beats the 777 -300 Premium Economy.
    It provides more than any other airline of its kind.
    Style,priority checking,luggage allowance,in flight care and above all seats that are mid economy to business class.
    I believe in quality at reasonable price and definitely value for money in comfort and style on this long flight.
    Btw…I am nit a Kiwi…just a shrewd passenger.

  • Virginia

    Just flown Premium economy with Air NZ Syd/SF and LA/Syd….two different aircraft.First stuck in first row and flap like a mouse hole had to be lifted so could slide feet into small hole.Normal seats and near severy …all for double price. Return on 777 with shell seats by air hostess assigned to us failed to show us how seats extend so sat erect all night for double price..did have much more leg room though.aircraft very over heated.
    Not sure it is worth the money on this trip as we only had Premium on one leg in spite of fact on return flight we only had stopover.

  • Russ

    Excited to book this in a few weeks for my November holiday. Just wondered how easy it was getting out of that window seat any time you need to use the bathroom. I fly solo a lot and prefer a window seat but hate to bug the person next to me any time I need to “go”. Not that I have a weak bladder but 2 – 3 times on an 11 hour flight seems about right…!

  • Tai

    hi there,

    I’m just wondering how did you get them to pay for the seat but you paid tax. thanks

  • D Smith

    I am about to book these seats for an upcoming trip from LAX to AKL. I’m wondering why some people comment that these seats are not worth it. Is this just from confusion between the 777-300 and 777-200? I don’t want to spend double and not get much in return.

  • Tai

    hi David how did you do that
    Thanks Tai

  • Tai

    Hi,
    how did you do that
    Thanks Tai

  • Tai

    Hi,
    How were you able to do that?
    Tai

  • Tai

    So did you email air nz and say if I do a review on the product will you pay for airfare and I will pay tax. PS very good review
    Tai

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