New Zealand is not exactly a central place to visit, and the national carrier - Air New Zealand - serves as a lifeline for the nation to the rest of the world. It takes its continent-connecting role seriously and offers a comfortable, entertaining and sometimes even cheeky Business Class to get you there. Being so close to Australia (just 1,400 kilometres), ANZ flies direct to several destinations across the Tasman Sea, including Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Air New Zealand brands its most premium cabin as Business Premier.
Its primary hub is in Auckland, but the airline does fly long-haul sectors from Christchurch on the South Island. Domestic connections crisscross the nation - with regional international flights linking to many Pacific Islands and Australia. The airline is rightly proud of its Māori heritage, and you will find cultural elements on display throughout the plane and its inflight service offering.
As a member of Star Alliance, Air New Zealand shares numerous airline partners around the globe with whom passengers can earn and redeem miles for their flights including Air Canada, ANA, Austrian, Brussels Airlines, Copa, Egyptair, Ethiopian, Lufthansa, Swiss International, Thai and United among others. Star Alliance Gold members from other partner airlines can enjoy special benefits when flying, even if in economy class. The airline’s own Airpoints program is another way for people to earn miles directly with Air New Zealand should they wish.
Auckland’s international airport is undergoing significant expansion and construction, but it is still easy to navigate whether for connections or starting or ending your journey there. Its international and domestic operations are separate, which means clearing a rigorous customs check when arriving from overseas.
A dedicated Business Premier section for Business Class travellers and elite frequent flier members makes it easier to check in and head for the fast-track security lanes. Once airside, the Business Class lounge in Auckland is a lovely space with plentiful seating, a buffet of hot and cold dishes, a self-serve bar with a huge selection of New Zealand wine and showers. Its most popular feature is the coffee bar. You can place an order using a mobile device so that it is ready by the time you reach the counter. To-go orders are encouraged, and for a nation so focused on good coffee, it is a solid concept that more airlines should consider adopting for their lounges.
Domestic fliers have their own lounge with fewer amenities, but still a great selection of food and drinks. Beyond Auckland, Air New Zealand has branded lounges in cities including Brisbane, Melbourne, Nadi, Perth, Sydney Nadi and Wellington. When its own lounges are not an option, Business Premier passengers receive access to a partner or third-party lounge where they can enjoy pre-flight refreshments or get some work done.
All Air New Zealand long haul flights are now operated with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. While the entire fleet features the same cabin design and seats in Business Premier, some offer 18 seats over six rows while others feature 27 seats over nine rows. At first glance the cabin looks sleek and elegant thanks to the combination of light colours, plush leather seating and cool mood lighting, but it soon becomes clear that the seats are not ideal. Luckily, Air New Zealand has unveiled new Business Premier seats that will debut in 2024.
Business Premier seats are arranged in a 1-1-1 herringbone configuration. It is an odd setup, but does provide direct aisle access for every passenger. When first introduced in 2005, herringbone layouts were popular and represented innovation, but over time they have become less competitive. The main issues with the seats are the lack of privacy and how difficult it is to enjoy the view, even if seated by the window. All seats face towards the aisle, meaning that passengers seated directly across from each other on the starboard side in “J” and “K” seats also face each other. “A” seats are more private as they face a barrier rather than a neighbour, and are recommended for solo travellers.
There is not really any obvious choice of seats for couples, as no seats are positioned for easy conversation. The best option may be to sit across the aisle from each other since seats look toward each other rather than after each other along the window side.
An unusual benefit of the Air New Zealand Business Premier seats is that a small ottoman is at the base of the seat for your feet, but it also has a seat belt, which means a companion can dine with you. The ottoman is quite small, however, so it is not very comfortable.
The window seat position makes it rather neck-straining to actually peer out of the window.
To recline to bed mode, you need to ask a crew member for assistance as it is not a single-touch button process. They will flip back something behind the seat to make it fully flat, but there are not many customisable options. When you are ready to return to seat mode, you will have to call a crewmember again. This can lead to some wait times if other passengers need help, and it means you cannot switch between bed and seat mode at a whim. The narrow feeling has led some passengers to call this the coffin seat.
The television screens fold out from the side and are rather small. A small drink tray also folds out from the side with the option to bring out a larger meal tray when dining or working. What the seat lacks in privacy from the aisle, it makes up for in comfort especially since a large pillow and duvet plus a small storage compartment are available. Power outlets are conveniently placed but be careful as it is easy for personal devices or items to fall in between the seat and the dividing position.
The armrests on either side of the seat can lower for more space to move around. The crew can also assist with turndown service placing the sleeping pad, duvet, and pillow quite nicely.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes images, videos and seat maps for most airlines and aircraft Search results also include details such as seat pitch, width and recline. This way you can see the seat and cabin configuration of the flight in which you are interested, before making your choice.
On such long flight sectors, the inflight service is important, and Air New Zealand does not disappoint. The carrier lists its service schedule on the screen in front of you allowing you to see what meals and drinks will arrive when. The option to customize your dining schedule is a point of pride for flight crew. You can also order food and drinks on demand via the television screen, which is an unusual point of difference.
Most people choose to dine right after takeoff and again before landing. Hot towels are a nice way to begin the meal on long-haul flight. The meal begins with aperitifs from the bar before a linen is laid on the table like a restaurant. No trays are used. Instead, plates and silverware are placed directly on the table cloth for a very civilized and elegant presentation.
An appetiser and warm roll soon arrive with multiple starter and main course options including regional dishes like New Zealand lamb as well as international selections including some for vegetarians. Dessert has sweet and savoury options like cakes, fruit and cheese. The meal portions could be larger, but there are always more snacks to add should you feel peckish.
Nothing is served from a trolley, which adds to the experience and also leads to a quieter cabin in case some people prefer to sleep. Before landing, a second meal is available based on the time of day.
On long flights, there are refreshments set up in the galley or available upon request from the crew by using the screen to order whatever you like.
Before takeoff, passengers can choose between Laurent-Perrier Champagne, juice or water. The printed menus detail the many options available, which includes a mostly New Zealand wine list with several white and red bottles. Should you wish, you can opt to taste several at once to choose your preferred option. There is also a fine selection of beer, spirits and soft drinks.
During the flight, Business Class passengers receive a bottle of water at their seats although beverages are available at any time. The sizable coffee mugs affirm the importance of coffee culture in New Zealand.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on which Champagne is served in Business Class and First Class on many airlines. We do our best to keep track of any changes, but feel free to let us know if there is something we missed.
Air New Zealand crews are incredibly friendly and fun. They are proud of their home nation and are eager to give advice on what to do and where to go once there. Even if you are transiting, they are always up for conversation. Some will even offer special perks like New Zealand wine tastings inflight or special goodies for children.
While the entertainment screens are quite small, they are easy to operate with a touch-screen system. They feature a global roster of movies, music and short-subject films and sitcoms numbering more than a hundred. You have plenty to keep you busy on these long flights when not sleeping. The noise-reducing headphones are decent although not completely noise-cancelling.
The airline’s newest Airbus A320neo planes have wireless internet, which is complimentary. These mostly ply domestic and regional routes only, and Business Class passengers can also use the Wi-Fi signal on long-haul flights without charge, too.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on WiFi and inflight entertainment.
Amenity kits have a few New Zealand-based products, but they could be more robust for such a long flight. Bathrooms stock a few extras, but the most notable feature of them is that when you lock the door, there is pop music playing in the lavatory. What a clever idea! And most lavatories in Business Premier also have a window.
Families travelling with infants can request seats suitable for a bassinet; these should be reserved in advance to guarantee availability.
On shorter flights, the experience depends on if you are flying a narrowbody plane without flat-bed seats or a widebody aircraft. The former still comes with a hot meal service, but the drink and entertainment selection is slimmed down. On domestic flights, expect fewer perks since there is no traditional Business Class product. It all depends on the type of fare you book, which means you may get a bigger bag allowance, but the standard economy class seats are a disappointment after a long-haul flight.
On Trans-Tasman flights operated by narrow body aircraft, the most premium offering is branded Works Deluxe. This is as close as you can come to a Business Class experience on these flights, with perks such as a guaranteed empty seat next to you, additional legroom, complimentary meals and drinks, premium headphones, two checked bags, two checked bags as well as priority check-in and boarding. Passengers familiar with the Business Class offering on most flights within Europe will find the experience familiar.
Eco-friendly operations are a point of pride for the airline. A sustainability council regularly meets to determine new courses of action. These have led to greater onboard recycling efforts, more eco-friendly inflight service items and fewer single-use plastics. By 2023, the airline wants to reduce the amount of waste it sends to a landfill by 65%.
Air New Zealand has trialled edible coffee cups in a bid to reduce the amount of waste on board its planes. The cups, by local company Twiice, are made from vanilla-flavoured biscotti - and are apparently "leak-proof".
Its Project Green initiative has also diverted waste by re-using new and untouched service items on a subsequent flight. Previously, these had to be discarded due to biosecurity concerns. By 2050, the airline wants to have zero net emissions with a focus on carbon-neutral operations.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on CO2 emissions for each flight. Our quality algorithms also give a higher score to flights operated by the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft.