Old Jul 21, 17, 1:05 pm
  #11  
bj27
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
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SYD AKL in Air New Zealand J on the B772 and the Air New Zealand SYD Lounge

Arriving at Sydney airport I walked to the far end of the check-in area where Air New Zealand is located. I didn't have troubles checking in online but unfortunately Air NZ would not issue me a mobile boarding pass. Not totally sure why, but I had to pick it up at the airport.

I used a kiosk to print my BP (being wary that my carry-on was probably over the advertised weight limit...) instead of going to a desk.

Mach2 by Machiavelli (Priority Pass) and Air New Zealand SYD Lounge

I had not eaten in the Hilton Sydney's EL or downstairs at Glass brasserie and had only gotten a double shot in the EL since I knew I would be eating at the airport.

First stop: checking out one of Priority Pass' newest concepts at SYD airport. Essentially you receive a certain dollar amount off the bill ($36 AUD here) at certain food vendors through both the Domestic and International terminals since I'm assuming there are no lounges which want to take PP members.

$36 AUD is quite generous if you are by yourself. At Mach2 (International terminal, airside) I ordered a chicken/pesto sandwich and another double espresso, and the total was $16. The hostess even asked if I'd like to order more things to hit the $36 AUD benefit amount. I declined since I thought I'd be visiting the Air NZ lounge in a moment anyways.

Mach 2 -- note that I had originally come here because their menu online had advertised cold-pressed juices and smoothies... though I guess they probably just took the original menu from the CBD location. No juices or smoothies at the airport location.



Chicken and pesto sandwich on some sort of seedy, but soft bread. Delightful since the hostess heated it up for me. And it was HOT!



Sydney airport has an "Express Path" security and customs line -- granted it's just a separate entrance to make you feel special as a premium customer. It does just combine with the general line later on, but I guess you do save time if the regular lines are busy.

Security and customs was an easy affair. Automated gates for US passport holders make things a little quicker. Off to the Air New Zealand lounge (not sure its official name, so we'll just call it the Air NZ lounge since I think there's only one. ).



I was welcomed by a nice friendly agent -- I noticed that the Air NZ lounge has self-scan kiosks that are verified by an agent standing there. She scanned my BP, welcomed me, and mentioned boarding announcements for Star Alliance flights would be made.

Nice space. This is just one of 4 main areas within the lounge. The lounge is pretty large, though quite busy. Understandably all Star Alliance partners use this lounge since NZ is the only Star Alliance carrier based here.



I didn't take pictures of any of the nibbles but when I visited there were hot dishes (baked beans, potatoes, an eggplant fritatta dish), cold dishes (fruit, yogurt, smoothie shots, hard boiled eggs, etc.), and a live omelette station (which I did not use).

I settled in for a quick bite and checked my NZ app -- a quick departure delay but showing an early arrival.



Not totally sure why as the inbound flight had been early and both weather in SYD and AKL were clear. Oh well. Who knows!

Around 9:30am the lounge attendants paged that NZ 102 was ready for boarding, so I headed downstairs and walked the quick 1 minute to the gate.

SYD - AKL in Air New Zealand "Business Premier"
Flight #: NZ 102
Departing: SYD 9:50am (actual 10:05am)
Arriving: AKL 2:55pm (actual 2:45pm)
Booking Class: I Class
Equipment: B787-9
Seat: 5K

Boarding was already underway with one lane for economy pax and one lane for premium pax (Star Gold, NZ Elites, BusinessPremier, and all of the abovementioned's in-laws). I don't know what NZ's boarding delineation is as I did not see any mention of zones or groups like we have among carriers in the US.

Today's bird with a partner SQ and frenemy EK in the background. Love that Air NZ operates trans-Tasman flights with a mixture of 789s and 772/77Ws. I think perhaps every now and then there is an A321 in the mix as well.





Only 3 other pax in the J cabin, and I had the entire right side of the cabin to myself. Stephanie came by and introduced herself, as well as informing me of a quick flight time of 2:40H (originally blocked at 3+ hours I think). Even with a slight departure delay we'd arrive early. She explained to me all the features of the seat and presented me a menu for the lunch service.

Jon, another FA serving the other side came over to me and gently asked me if he could call me "bj" instead of "Mr. 27." Of course. I like it when FA's feel like they don't have to be stiff or formal or use "sir."

Then, Curtis, the flight leader (or ISM? purser? can't remember the official title) came over and introduced himself. I mentioned it was my first time on Air NZ and he was excited to tell me all about what the long-haul experience is like. He was excited to find out that I'd be flying to Tokyo a few days later and would get to experience it. He said I'd receive two pillows, a memory foam mattress pad, an amenity kit, etc. etc. Clearly he does this route often.

These kiwis are definitely proud of their home airline (and for good reason). What a spectacular and friendly crew (probably easier to give good service if the load is just 4 out of the normal 26.

Lastly, Fran from the Y cabin came over and introduced herself and welcomed me to my first Air NZ experience (so it's evident the Curtis, the flight leader, had spread the word among his minions). My goodness -- if this is what the service is like on each flight I will be duly impressed. She mentioned she'd been flying for over 20 years and still loves her job. What a crew. I half expected the pilots and first officers to come out and make some rounds.

I guess Air NZ has been at the forefront of the in-flight experience, being one of the first with Premium Economy, SkyCouch, a new IFE, etc. etc. (they could work on their mobile app though).







I quite like NZ's colour scheme here. I know these birds are the older ones in the fleet but surprisingly the seats have been kept up well. These are the herringbone style seats, which generally are not as regarded as well as reverse herringbone. The cream/chalk/beige (whatever you want to call it) provides a more open feel, and NZ's installed mood-lighting as well to add to the experience. Overall a nice cabin feeling.

Something I haven't seen other reporters point out: in this herringbone layout, since your head and shoulders are up against the window, there is actually more room and you don't feel as constricted. In most reverse herringbone layouts I find that the shell is enclosed around your shoulders and makes for quite a tight squeeze. However in this herringbone layout yes, while I do understand it's not as private, definitely felt roomier when the bed was laid down. More on the bed on the AKL - NRT flight.

In a 1-2-1 layout on NZ's 777's, much like Virgin Atlantic's iteration of these you are facing the aisle and away from the window (if you are in a window seat) which makes for a feeling of less privacy. I've also heard complaints of lack of storage space, and I agree -- though I still found it adequate. The space between the seat and the wall has been defacto shelf and storage area, and the seat has a built in pocket below the screens to store things.

The ottoman has a seatbelt built in so you can dine with someone if you'd like, though I imagine for them it may be slightly awkward as you would feel like you're literally sitting in the aisle. Still a nice feature.

Additionally, there is storage space underneath the ottoman as well, which is something you sometimes don't even get in some carriers' versions of the reverse herringbone (you get this on BR, but you are strictly policed not to store anything until after takeoff).



Definitely adequate for a sub-3 hour flight. The seats are well-padded and the pillow they provided on this short hop was even nicer than the one UA or DL provide in international J in terms of size (can't beat the gel-cooled pillow UA has now..). Thankfully these birds also have air gaspers (why are airlines getting rid of these)...not that I needed them today but always nice to have the option if you are too hot.

Departure formalities were conducted, one of Air NZ's famous safety videos were played (I did chuckle). I think it was called "Summer of Safety" which made me laugh since we were in the middle of winter but the weather was certainly nice enough to be summer.

I noted that Air NZ only uses a 1-chime system to indicate a 10,000 feet altitude (where most airlines I've flow two a double-chime to indicate 10,000 feet). The FAs sprang into action and Stephanie came over to take my lunch order.

Today's menu.



Used for both ex-NZ and ex-AUS on trans-Tasman flights.





Nice selections for a 3 hour flight.



Jon came over and served a sparkling water with lemon and ice, and left me the bottle, along with some cashews (not heated, but I won't be picky).



Settling into a movie while waiting for service. "Collide" is an unmemorable, but perfectly fine action-thriller to pass 2 hours.

A note on Air NZ's IFE: this is hands-down one of the best interfaces I've used. It's snappy, responsive, and Air NZ has lots, and lots of content in multiple languages to support all audiences. I think the only other carrier (who I've experienced) who can compete in terms of content is DL, though NZ offers a much smoother IFE interface, and you can favorite things to save later. You can even email your favorites to keep track of later.

Air NZ's IFE also offers in-seat chat, as well as ordering of food, snacks, and complimentary/paid amenities.

Lastly, I noted that crew members have the ability to send text messages to all pax without interrupting content. For example, on my next AKL - NRT flight, once we hit 10,000 feet the purser sent a message to say even though we departed late, we would still arrive on time and all connections were safe. A great customer experience.



Air NZ's tray table comes out vertically from the shell and expands in front of you. It also adjusts forwards or backwards (so you can get out of the seat without putting the table away), which is so convenient. Nothing worse than needing to use the restroom but having all the service items on your tray table and not being sure where to put them.

The tray table is also LARGE, so definitely room to put everything on here. Something I appreciated as well.

Today's starter: sweetcorn and thyme tart with beetroot relish and goat's cheese cream.



Stephanie also offered for me to sample the other starter, the smoked warehou salad since we had such a light load today (in the back of the picture).



I actually preferred the smoked warehou salad to the relatively boring tart. Can we take a moment and appreciate the care and delicateness to which either catering or the crew have plated these starters?

Bread was offered -- I chose rosemary loaf and garlic bread. Both were excellent.

Olive oil was also offered. This olive oil was peppery, bright, and with a bite. I absolutely loved it and have been searching online for ways to buy this. It was almost too peppery that I coughed a few times when being too greedy, but alas, what an unexpectedly delicious olive oil.



The main course, the hapuka. I had originally selected the paprika chicken breast salad but then switched to this native NZ fish as I wanted to try it out (at the end of the day chicken breast salad is pretty boring as far as dishes go).



The hapuka was delicious. The beans and fennel were fine. The fennel was much too overpowering for the dish and I left most of it. The beans were also slightly boring so I also left most of them. But the fish was done very nicely so I'm glad I went with this dish.

Air NZ also offers high-quality flaked sea salt and ground pepper that is much nicer than your standard iodized salt you find on many carriers.

Jon, Stephanie, and Curtis never failed to keep my sparkling water glass topped up (I drink a lot of water when I fly, and moreso if it's sparkling ).

Stephanie came back and replaced my main dish with my dessert of choice -- the white chocolate and raspberry ice cream with toasted coconut and rose syrup.



I am always let down by white chocolate ice cream since the flavor is too subtle and is hard to perceive when you are having a frozen dessert. However, the rose syrup was absolutely delightful. A forward rose flavor with a very complex and a deep aroma. Nice job Air NZ (and LSG Skychefs/Gate Gourmet/whoever).

Stephanie came back while I was in the middle of my first scoop and asked if she could tempt me with the feijoa parfait as well. Well, of course! I am actually not much of a sweets guy but I do like sampling for the sake of sampling.



Turns out the feijoa parfait was much better than my ice cream selection. I abandoned my ice cream and instead ate the entire feijoa parfait. Feijoa is a fruit native to South America (Brazil, I believe) but also cultivated in NZ. Feijoa's flavor can be overpowering but it was delicate and light in this parfait application -- a little citrusy with a complex strawberry and earthy flavor. It was quite nice.

Also -- note that down under parfaits are not served in a glass and layered like a trifle as us Americans think. Upon further research Americans just tend to serve parfait in a glass, but a parfait refers to the mousse-like dessert that you see on the plate above.

After dessert was completed, Jon offered a cup of coffee and a mint chocolate. I do like Air NZ's mugs.



Being a short flight (and with an extraordinary tailwind), we arrived early at a remote stand in AKL (where I counted 4... yes FOUR EK A380s on the tarmac/at gates).



A quick bus ride to the terminal and we were off to customs processing and agricultural screening.

After these formalities I purchased a SkyBus ticket (SkyBus has a stop right at the Langham, where I was staying), and headed into town.

Overall, a very, very lovely flight on Air NZ and I'm glad I got to try them out. It made me look forward to my flight with them from AKL to NRT. Lovely crew who are proud of their airline and while a herringbone J product is not the general favorite in the market, I found it comfortable and it gets the job done. In terms of technology to enhance the customer experience, I found that Air NZ is really on the forefront (with the exception of their mobile app). Great job Air NZ.

Air NZ award space is hard to come by (especially on any of their international routes, which is all of them except inter-NZ), but somehow I found award space between SYD and AKL for an acceptable date. Being that this flight was "free" with the United Mileageplus "Explorist" perk (granted there were some $90 in taxes), made me feel even better about the redemption. Normally this flight would have cost something like 40,000 UA miles in J.

Next up: The Langham, Auckland, and Auckland sights

Last edited by bj27; Jul 21, 17 at 6:31 pm
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