Air New Zealand has returned the Boeing 787-9s to its daily nonstop between Auckland and Perth and other routes and what a difference the aircraft and the flight attendants make to the flight.
For the past two years, the airline has had to use a variety of stop-gap measures on many routes, while the Rolls Royce engines on its 787s went through fan blade replacement. The Perth-Auckland route was probably the worst impacted.
The recent announcement by the airline of an order for up to 20 787-10s afforded an opportunity to try out its business class and it is just superb.
In a way it is hard to put one’s finger on what part of the operation excels – every part does. Check-in, lounge, boarding, cabin ambience, attitude, food and the list goes on.
As I had to attend a press conference at 9 am in Auckland the next morning I need sleep on the flight over so chose to eat in the lounge and then as soon as the flight reached cruise I had my bed set up for slumber.
The new lounge in Perth is exceptional. A great array of food and wines, plenty of space to work and superb attention from the staff who couldn’t do enough.
The real winner is the Business Premier bed. Unlike so many other business class beds, Air New Zealand actually has a decent mattress which ensures a good nights sleep. It’s a small thing but it is so, so important because sleeping on a park bench is not much better than sleeping upright!
And yes, I had almost five hours sleep – so just enough to face a press conference and look human!
On the flight home, I decided to take lunch to experience the full service.
Just after take-off Laurent-Perrier champagne and mixed nuts were served. Orders were taken before departure so the champagne arrived quickly.
The starter was a choice between Smoked Duck breast with pickled pear relish and walnuts, horopito and roasted garlic aioli and Kumara and kawakawa hummus, sumac-dusted goat cheese, aubergine, mint and cumin salad.
Duck for me!
The main course was a choice of three. Slow cooked New Zealand lamb shank with creamy red skin potato mash, green peas, savoy cabbage and mint apple jelly or roasted chicken with risotto primavera, broad beans, mint, courgettes and basil, parmesan and pea tendrils.
My choice was the final selection of Hapuka with black garlic and ginger wok fried rice noodles, mushrooms, broccolini and edamame, fermented black bean sauce.
The Hapuka was outstanding and the flavours of the accompaniments amazing as was the Whitehaven Marlborough Noble Riesling.
To round up lunch, as you do, desert was on offer and who can resist dark chocolate ice cream with peach and passion fruit compote and meringue crush? The other options were Greek yoghurt mousse with raspberry coulis and freeze-dried raspberries or a selection of New Zealand cheese served with quince paste and crackers.
The flight to Perth is about 7 hours and about an hour before landing flight attendants offer an afternoon tea service which consists of fresh fruit salad, sandwiches and then a lemon meringue tart or chocolate cherry layer cake.
At every turn the service was exceptional. Nothing too much trouble.
There is no question Air New Zealand is punching way above its weight and not a surprise that the airline is Australian’s favourite for the third year running.
Geoffrey Thomas was a guest of Air New Zealand.