Air New Zealand has added a twice-weekly seasonal service between Sydney and Rotorua.
Sydney to Rotorua
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Economy, The Works, seat 8A
Just under three hours
The Sydney to Rotorua route is a twice-weekly seasonal service operating during the peak travel season in central New Zealand which runs between September and April (but rug up as it can still get chilly during this period).
There are 168 seats and 28 rows in the economy class cabin of the A320. The seats, laid out in a 3-3 configuration, have a 30- to 34- inch (76 to 86 centimetres) pitch with a decent amount of leg room. Seats in rows one and two (A, C, D and F) are allocated to passengers who buy a Works Deluxe economy-class ticket.
Economy-class passengers who buy a Works ticket are allowed up to 23 kilograms of checked baggage and up to 7kg of carry-on.
Air New Zealand's novel series of safety videos (the latest one being themed on the latest instalment of Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit epic) are better produced and more entertaining than the last dozen or so Australian feature films. However, regular customers may find them faintly annoying after the third, fourth or more screenings. As for the actual easy-to-use on-demand in-flight entertainment system, movies and TV programs include latest releases and classics, while children have their own channel, which includes games and audio books. There is also a separate music, radio, audio books and games channels. The music section features a special "NZ Showcase Section" (who, frankly, can ever tire of Dave Dobbyn?).
What's this Kiwi fetish for black? Something to do with some rugby team, apparently. All the seats in the economy class cabin are upholstered in comfy black wool and provide a sense of cosiness. All in all, it makes for a comfortable flight, or as comfortable as economy can ever truly be.
Air New Zealand has become a kind of antipodean version of Singapore Airlines, but with a sense of humour. It has worked hard on developing a distinctive identity and succeeded, with the reward being that it is one of the few profitable airlines in the Asia-Pacific region. The service aboard is efficient, jolly and sincere.
Passengers who buy an economy-class ticket as part of "The Works" deal, at an additional charge, are entitled to a "full meal" (usually meaning cooked) and "beverage options". Meals for children, as part of The Works option, can be requested at the time of booking and come with an additional activity pack pacifier. In an Air New Zealand innovation, passengers on all but 747-400 and 777-200 aircraft, can order from a food menu from their seat-back screens. Passengers who don't opt for The Works order from a standard menu that includes basics such as chicken sandwiches, pies and bagels.
ONE MORE THING
This service is a useful one for exploring the central and easterly half of the North Island, which includes not just Rotorua (New Zealand's whiffy thermal activity capital) but Taupo, home of Huka Lodge, New Zealand's most famous luxury accommodation, the art deco city of Napier and the famed Hawkes Bay wine country.
My flight from Sydney to Rotorua was pleasant, smooth and uneventful. Can you really ask for anything more from an economy-class trip? Air New Zealand deserves credit for creating a strong, distinctive and, yes, fun brand identity. It is a reflection of its home country and the high standards of service in both the economy and business class cabins experienced by this passenger in recent times.
Tested by Anthony Dennis, who flew courtesy of Air New Zealand and Huka Lodge.