Airline review: Aircalin Airbus A330neo premium economy, Sydney to Noumea

THE ROUTE

Sydney to La Tontouta International Airport, Noumea, New Caledonia.

THE AIRCRAFT

Aircalin took delivery of two 291-seat, wide-bodied Airbus A330neo aircraft in August and September this year. The planes boast a new premium economy cabin class with 21 seats. The "neo" stands for New Engine Option.

LOYALTY SCHEME

Flying Blue is the loyalty programme of Aircalin, Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways, Tarom and Transavia.

CLASS

Premium economy

DURATION

Two hours and 19 minutes.

FREQUENCY

Aircalin flies from Sydney to Noumea six times a week and offers code-share flights with Qantas and Air New Zealand from other Australian cities. The new aircraft will fly from Sydney to Noumea twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

THE SEAT

I am in 11F, an aisle seat, in a 2-3-2 configuration, with a generous seat pitch of 38 inches (96.5 centimetres). The seat tilts back 18.1 degrees, though I don't need to recline on such a short flight. The seat is comfortable and wide (about 47cm) and the colour scheme in muted and classy shades of blue and grey.

ENTERTAINMENT

The high definition (33.78cm) touch screen is state-of-the-art, with USB and power ports. There are 45 movies on offer, 16 of which are new releases. The TV menu, however, is a little sparse Still, the journey is only a couple of hours long. On both legs the promised inflight Wi-Fi isn't available.

CHECKING IN

There's a dedicated check-in and priority boarding for premium-economy passengers. Nothing out of the ordinary here. All very pleasant and efficient.

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BAGGAGE

Two pieces of checked luggage up to 23 kilograms and one piece of cabin baggage up to 7kg.

COMFORT

Excellent all round. The seats are comfortable with lots of leg room and I like the flora motifs on the pillows and the blankets, which come wrapped in biodegradable bags. There's a bright, happy holiday feel to the cabin, too.

SERVICE

The staff, all elegantly dressed in livery that matches both the cabin and the water in New Caledonia, are multi-lingual and unfailingly polite without being servile. They even keep a straight face when tortured by my abysmal French.

FOOD

There are no choices with the food but when it's this good, who cares? On this flight there is smoked duck salad, roast chicken with sweet potato and diced vegetables, and a dense but delicious cheesecake to finish. The small bottle of French red (I went for that over the Champagne) hits the spot.

ONE MORE THING

Part of the new cabin fit-out includes larger overhead luggage bins.

THE VERDICT

The lack of decent TV shows on the entertainment system might be a problem on longer flights but at just over two hours flying time from go to whoa, it's a minor wrinkle. Hopefully the Wi-Fi glitch has been fixed by now. Other than that, there's nothing to complain about. The seats are comfy, the service impeccable and the plane so new it's squeaky clean. Not that it actually squeaks, you understand.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★½

Keith Austin travelled as a guest of Aircalin.

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