Airline review: Air New Zealand Business Premier to Cook Islands

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Rarotonga, Cook Islands

THE PLANE

Boeing 767-300, of which Air New Zealand has five in operation. The veterans of the fleet, they have an average age of about 19 years.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Air Points

CLASS 

Business Premier – seat 4A

DURATION

We take off 20 minutes late, but make up time and touch down five minutes early at 6:35am – making for a five hour and 45-minute flight. We shuffle back in time to "yesterday" because we crossed the international date line.

FREQUENCY

This is the only direct service to the Cook Islands from Australia and it departs every Saturday at 9:30pm. 

THE SEAT STUFF

The business cabin has a two-two-two configuration. Seats are 46-centimetres wide with a winged headrest and a legrest. While they don't recline flat into a bed, they do go back 38cm and have a 127cm seat pitch.

BAGGAGE

Business Premier passengers are allowed three pieces of checked baggage weighing up to 23 kilograms each, and two pieces of hand luggage weighing up to 14kg in total.

COMFORT

While the 767 doesn't offer all the mod-cons of an A380 or Dreamliner you will be very comfortable in Business Premier class. All Business Premier passengers receive an amenities kit containing vanilla pod hydrating day cream and paw-paw lip balm made by Antipodes – an organic New Zealand-made skincare company. And if you're hungry after your meal, snacks and drinks are available throughout the flight.

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ENTERTAINMENT

At last count Air New Zealand offered 1015 total hours of blockbuster movies, TV shows and audio onboard meaning you're unlikely to run out of options on your way to the Cook Islands. All are shown on an 11 inch (27cm) touch monitor screen with noise-cancelling headsets.

SERVICE

Because this is a night flight, the most important factor here is how little the flight attendants bother you when you request sleep time. Drinks are offered as soon as you're seated, as well as snacks, and attendants are quick to collect meal choices and serve food to allow for maximum shut-eye (important on a six hour night flight that lands at dawn). 

FOOD

Dinner is served not far out of Sydney – I opt for lemon grass poached chicken with rice noodles, cucumber and coconut dressing with crispy shallots for an entree with blue eye cod fillet with caper and olive salsa, crushed potatoes with thyme, green beans and rocket salad washed down with a GH Mumm Cordon Rouge champagne. Had I opted for dessert I wouldn't have gone past the white chocolate and amaretti cheesecake with cherry compote (but I did, so more champagne for me then).

ONE MORE THING

Not every flyer is a fan of night flights, but the best thing about this overnight service is that you'll land at sunrise on Rarotonga, offering the most spectacular of  introductions to Polynesia. And you'll descend the stairs with the smell of tipani and tiare in your nostrils.

THE VERDICT

I was an Air New Zealand Junior Jet Club member when I was five. Back then they let me sit up front with the pilots. Although getting up there today is a tad less likely, flying with Air New Zealand still somehow makes me feel like flying's a privilege (how old is too old to be a Junior Jet Clubber?) 

Tested by Craig Tansley, who travelled with the assistance of Air New Zealand and Cook Islands Tourism.