Auckland to Sydney direct.
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
There are multiple flights daily on the Trans-Tasman route, with Premium Economy offered on Boeing 777-200, 777-300 and Dreamliner aircraft only – so make sure you check the schedule.
The flight is scheduled at three hours 35 minutes; despite a slight delay in departure, my flight takes only three hours 12 minutes, arriving on schedule.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
NZ Airpoints, part of Star Alliance.
Premium economy allows two pieces of checked baggage weighing up to 23kg each, tagged priority (so first onto the carousel on arrival) and two items weighing up to 14kg for cabin baggage (double the standard economy allowance).
There is an Air NZ Premium Check-In line at Auckland Airport, accessed via a futuristic pink-neon travel hub – "as if you're about to teleport", according to my daughter. The check-in process is seamless, before being ushered through to express security clearance.
25E, Premium Economy. There are 21 Premium Economy seats available on the Dreamliner, in three dedicated rows with a two-three-two configuration.
My heart sinks when I realise I've been allocated a dreaded middle seat; but there's absolutely no cause for claustrophobia, with ample room (a 104cm pitch) to move past my neighbour into the aisle. Furthermore, with my seat located at the back of the cabin, I can recline the comfy leather seat to its full capacity (22.9cm – 50 per cent more than Economy) without the usual tut-tuts and glaring. A real pillow and an adjustable headrest all add to the comfort factor.
The gate-to-gate entertainment system, displayed on an 11-inch touchscreen, features more than 1700 hours of content including movies and TV boxed sets (including binge-worth shows such as The Handmaid's Tale and Westworld), so there is plenty of choice to while away a three-hour journey all enjoyed through excellent noise-reducing headphones. The system also features a dedicated kids section, seat-to-seat chat, and Screen Share (watch the same movie as your travel companion, at the same time).
Exemplary and charming, from a personal introduction by the Premium Economy-dedicated steward, to hot towels and bubbles on take-off.
Dinner service, featuring a menu designed by Auckland celebrity chef Peter Gordon, consists of a three-course meal complemented by a selection of New Zealand wines. An entree of tea-smoked salmon served with new potato, tarragon and dill salad is accompanied by a selection of fresh breads from the bakery. Main meal is a choice of New Zealand snapper, Dijon mustard baked chicken breast or slow-cooked beef on mushroom gnocci; I choose the chicken, topped off by the dessert of mocha panna cotta with cherry compote.
ONE MORE THING
The intimate nature of the Dreamliner's Premium Economy cabin and the standard of service elevates the experience to one rivalling some airlines' business class.
THE LAST WORD
Air New Zealand's Premium Economy is consistently lauded and awarded as the world's best-in-class, and with good reason. In my opinion, it's business-class service for a fraction of the price, and certainly worth the extra outlay (from around $200 more) on the standard, all-inclusive economy ticket.
The writer was a guest of Air New Zealand.