Boeing 777-200ER with 312 seats, 40 of them in premium economy.
Sydney to Auckland.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Airpoints. It's free to join, and you can earn points on all 27 Star Alliance member airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
Premium economy, aisle seat 24G.
Three hours and five minutes.
Air New Zealand flies to Auckland numerous times daily from all capital cities.
I end up in premium economy seat 24G, an inside aisle seat, after discovering the video screen on my original seat wasn't working. The accommodating staff quickly reassigned me. Air New Zealand's premium economy runs from rows 23 to 27. Being a 2-4-2 layout, I'm happy to have aisle access. My seat has an 18.5-inch (47 centimetre) width and a 41-inch (104 centimetre) pitch, enough for tall flyers to stretch out in comfort.
Premium economy guests are allowed two bags of up to 23 kilograms each of checked baggage, with an extra two bags plus one small item (handbag or laptop) weighing up to 14 kilograms for hand luggage.
With my flight scheduled to leave at 1.50pm (a delay sees us taking off half an hour late), I look forward to making the most of my 11 inch (28 centimetre) tilted screen rather than sleeping. Air New Zealand has a demonstration video showing travellers how to make the most of their seat. It helps me get as comfortable as possible – reclining the full 22 centimetres, using the adjustable winged headrest and extending the leg and foot rest – without having to spend half an hour working out the befuddling levers. The good-quality noise cancelling headphones and USB port are appreciated, as are the linen napkins and Antipodes hand wash in the bathrooms, which are shared with business class.
There's an excellent selection of films, including 40 new releases, 20 classics and nine New Zealand movies, as well as arthouse, foreign language films and documentaries including Before the Flood and I Am Heath Ledger. I watch the latter; being en route to Antarctica, Titanic just doesn't feel like the right choice. There's the usual selection of TV shows, music, radio, games and kid's selection, but I'm impressed by the addition of audiobooks and something called Seat Chat, which lets you message friends and family onboard without leaving your seat. You can also share your screen, so you can watch the same movie as the seat next to you at the same time. Air New Zealand's KiaOra inflight magazine is, unfortunately, only available on domestic NZ flights.
A four-course lunch is offered. I start with tea smoked Marlborough salmon with potato, tarragon and dill salad, and move on to a North Island snapper with parmesan crushed potatoes, green beans and a tasty tomato salsa. Both are excellent. Mocha panna cotta follows, polished off with a New Zealand Kapiti cheese. There's an enticing selection of New Zealand wines on offer, but I stick to a bottle of New Zealand Waiwera water. Yawn.
Relaxed but attentive. There are regular offers of chocolates and sweets and not too much chit-chat. The self-check-in kiosks at Sydney Airport make checking in as speedy as it gets – five minutes from arrival to dropping my bags.
ONE MORE THING
A hot tip for anyone flying premium who wants the business flatbed experience, straight from the flight attendant's mouth: book a seat in the middle section of rows 23 and 27. If you're lucky and there's no one else in your row, the arm rests of these two rows only can be lifted up, transforming your row into an instant bed.
Professional service, excellent food, comfortable seats and a great entertainment selection: Air New Zealand's premium economy is as close to travelling business class as it gets. No wonder it won second place in the 2017 Skytrax awards for the world's best premium economy class.
Tested by Nina Karnikowski who flew as a guest of APT.