Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 258,704
2013: 330,818

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:

Checking out Air New Zealand’s New Interior on Their First Boeing 777-300ER

Air New Zealand's first Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM) parked next to the Future of Flight at Paine Field

Air New Zealand's first Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM) parked next to the Future of Flight at Paine Field

Yesterday was quite the amazing day. Air New Zealand took delivery of their first Boeing 777-300ER. Not only is this the first of five that Air New Zealand will take delivery on, this aircraft also showcases their new interior and new slightly updated livery.

Many different companies will hype something as being new and “the next best thing,” then when you actually see it, you are left feeling disappointed. I have been looking forward to Air New Zealand’s new interior since they announced their Sky Couches almost a year ago (heck, I even gave the seats an “Awesome Medal“). What better way to check out the new interior than catch the plane’s first flight with passengers? Air New Zealand was kind enough to invite me to their delivery ceremony (I will blog about the actual delivery in the future) and get a tour of the plane before taking a short flight down to Los Angeles (disclaimer: I did not pay for the Air New Zealand flight to LAX, but did pay for a flight back to Seattle).

The flight deck of the Boeing 777-300ER.

The flight deck of the Boeing 777-300ER.

This new interior was set to premier in Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but due to the delays they decided to put the interior on their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. When first walking on, you can tell it is different. Modern, clean, trendy and it smelled good. If you like that new car smell, you would love new airplane smell.

The best seats start at the front of the plane and work their way back. And when I say front, I mean the very front. The cockpit of the Boeing 777-300ER is very roomy and someplace I wouldn’t mind hanging out for a few hours. Although they might be best seats in the house, you aren’t able to buy your way into them (other than putting in the time to be a pilot).

These are the very roomy Business Select seats up front.

These are the very roomy Business Select seats up front.

The best seats you can actually pay for are located in the Business Premier section at the front of the plane. They have what you expect to see in a premium long haul international seat plus some. They provide a totally flat bed (with memory foam top), a cozy duvet, fluffy pillows, in-flight entertainment and a nice big table you can use to dine alone or with a guest on the small guest seat. The seats are tilted which can give you quite a bit of privacy, but they still allow you to have a conversation with those around you. I was lucky enough to be sitting in one of these seats on the delivery flight from Paine Field (PAE) to LAX and I have to say it was quite impressive (I am actually writing this at the seat right now with a laptop, food, paperwork, drink and camera on the table as well).

These are the clever Premium Economy seats at a slight angle.

These are the clever Premium Economy seats at a slight angle.

The next option is Premium Economy. Some American airlines might have “premium economy” where it is a standard economy seat with a few more inches of room or near the front of the plane. These are high-end seats that provide ample room and entertainment. The seats do not lie-flat, but it still wouldn’t stop someone from having a good rest.  The angle provides a good fit if you are traveling alone and want some privacy, but it is not enough to hinder two people flying together.

The very comfy Sky Couch seen enroute to LAX.

The very comfy Sky Couch seen enroute to LAX.

Who says that economy can’t be made fun? When heading farther back into the aircraft you come to black economy seats, but some of these seats are created better than the others. There are 20 sets of seats on the aircraft that can be transformed into a sky-couch. This is a great feat not only for Air New Zealand and Recaro (the company that designed them) but also the future of airline travel. Even though the couch provides a 5’1″ length, I was able to lay down and be quite comfortable at 6’1″. Lie-flat seats have been all the rage in First and Business Class seats for international airlines and Air New Zealand wanted to take it to the next level in economy. However, I plan to detail the Sky Couch seats in more detail in a future blog, since they deserve one.

This is economy class, where you will find the Sky Couch and standard economy seats.

This is economy class, where you will find the Sky Couch and standard economy seats.

If you do not get a Sky-Couch economy seat, do not worry, things still aren’t too shabby. The remainder of the seats are your standard economy seats. Each one still has their own in-flight entertainment screen, PC power and USB and iPod connections (all the seats on board do). You also get a nice little foot net to change up your seating position during those longs flights.

No matter where you are sitting, you are able to enjoy Air New Zealand’s new food options. All seats allow passengers to order food from their seat anytime during the flight. Meal service on your terms, not according to the clock. This Boeing 777-300ER is is the first aircraft to have induction ovens allowing the airline to offer more food choices for customers. Want your steak medium-rare? Sure thing (Well, Business Select are the only folks to get steak. But other classes do have other great food options). Since our flight was so short we weren’t able to experience the entire meal, but they did offer an array of high-end snacks like shrimp, duck and lamb. If the food served is any indication of the full meals, I am quite impressed.

Check out this window in the restroom.

Check out this window in the restroom.

The aircraft has nice little touches as well. In a few of the lavatories you will actually find a window to the outside. Nothing like seeing the terrain below as you do your business. If you do not want to look out the window, others have interesting images on the wall, like a bookshelf and chandelier. There are other neat additions like a concierge area (and there is a concierge on-board too) to help you find what to do when you arrive at your destination. If you have kids, they can enjoy story time with one of the on-board crew. Otherwise you have a great in-flight entertainment system with quite a few options — all free. Of course, I think one of the coolest features was the service (and that New Zealand accent).

The two hour flight to LAX was way too short. I would have loved to stay on-board and experience the luxury and near luxury treats for a full 13hr test flight down to Auckland. However, since it is close to the holidays I had to make my way back up to Seattle instead. I hope this is not the last time I come in contact with one of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-300ER’s.

CHECK OUT ALL 102 PHOTOS FROM THE DELIVERY FLIGHT

* News video on the SkyCouch (at 0:48 you can see me as I wrote this blog and 1:30 a few words)
*
Photos and video of the Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER taking off from Paine Field