Airline review: Air New Zealand premium economy, Auckland to Buenos Aires

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner

THE ROUTE

Auckland to Buenos Aires

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Airpoints, with Star Alliance compatibility

DURATION

11 hours, 40 minutes

FREQUENCY

Three times a week

THE SEAT

Premium economy 25K. The premium economy cabin features 21 seats in a 2-3-2 layout. Seats have a 41-inch (104cm) pitch, are 19.3 inches (49cm) wide and have a five-inch (12.7cm) wide armrest.

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags, up to 23 kilos each. Carry on is generous: two bags up to 14 kilos plus one small item such as handbag or laptop. Up to 10 kilos only for any one item.

COMFORT

The Dreamliner's fabled cabin comfort advantages are real, people. Frequent flyers notice the more relaxing cabin pressure and air quality made possible by the aircraft's strong composite construction. It's also a good deal quieter than many in the sky.

As for the seat, well, it's amazing what an arm rest can do. Just having a buffer between yourself and the adjacent stranger makes things that much more pleasant. The 41-inch pitch makes sleeping an OK proposition. A large cotton covered pillow, sizeable blanket and the addition of my own neck pillow had me out to it. I found an extra airline pillow and put it on my leg rest, giving me some extra elevation.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Panasonic Avionics system with high definition touchscreen displays. They're 11 inches – the same as business class and highly navigable with simple graphics controlled with swiping and pressing and an easy-to-understand interface. I used my own noise cancelling headphones but others seemed very happy with the supplied.

The system does a lot more than entertain, too, with the crew call function enabling you to telegraph your needs via buttons stipulating your need to be attended, whether that's arrival documents, water, snacks or other options. Extra points for easy access to a screen-off button on the home page.

Each seat has universal power and USB points.

SERVICE

Could Air New Zealand have the friendliest crews in the sky? Ours had great humour and just the right touch of informality while carrying out drinks and meals service swiftly and courteously and their duty of care professionally.

FOOD

Overseen by New Zealand culinary legend Peter Gordon, the dinner menu offered three tasty-sounding options: a slow-cooked beef cheek with horseradish mash, roast chicken breast with cous cous and blackened salmon with citrus labna. There was no chicken left by the time service got to me but the beef was a fine choice. Dessert was a boysenberry cheesecake and there was an excellent selection of NZ wines.

Breakfast was a choice of scrambled eggs or sweet hotcakes with blueberry compote and whipped cream. The eggs tasted fresh-made – a pretty impressive feat at altitude.

ONE MORE THING

My first leg was Melbourne-Auckland. I was travelling to join an Abercrombie & Kent Antarctic cruise out of the Argentine city of Ushuaia (with the A&K experience actually starting in Buenos Aires before a charter flight south). So the directness of the journey was a massive bonus instead of, say, having to fly Melbourne-Sydney-Santiago-Buenos Aires. An additional plus: all legs were on the one airline.

THE VERDICT

A great flight on a great airline to an amazing city. With a great lounge experience in Auckland to boot. Any questions about the value in paying for premium economy should be put to bed by experiencing the comfort and service of this cabin on such a long haul route.

Tested by Julietta Jameson who flew as a guest of Air New Zealand.

Our rating out of five: ★★★★½

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