Boeing 777-200ER. The 777 family is the world's largest twin-engined jet and Air NZ has eight 777-200ERs in its fleet.
Auckland to Sydney.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Air NZ Airpoints. Passengers can also earn miles towards other Star Alliance membership programs.
Premium economy, aisle seat 25D.
Two hours, 50 minutes.
Air NZ has multiple daily departures between Sydney and Auckland, but premium economy is only available on its Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, so check the schedule.
Premium economy occupies a separate cabin with 40 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. The black leather seats have adjustable head rests, leg rests and foot bars plus a multi-adaptor power point and USB connector. Seat pitch: 106 centimetres; width: 49 centimetres; recline: 22 centimetres.
Premium economy passengers get two priority checked bags (up to 23 kilograms each), two carry-on bags (up to 14 kilograms in total) plus one small personal item.
A marked step up from economy, with more leg room, elbow room and 50 per cent more recline. Air NZ claims its premium economy seat has the largest seat pitch in its class and the increased personal space is noticeable. While sleeping isn't a priority on this three-hour flight, the large, comfortable pillow and winged head rest mean you could easily grab forty winks.
Air NZ's inflight system is an all-singing, all-dancing beast with 1800 hours of on-demand entertainment available gate-to-gate through a touch-sensitive 11-inch (28cm) screen. I count 22 genuine new release movies plus an extravagant selection of TV shows, games, documentaries and box sets. There's an entire section for kids plus a useful "Kid Safe" button which you can switch on so they can browse with impunity. Other features include seat-to-seat chat, an onboard wine shop and destination guides. If you don't want to take advantage of the supplied noise-cancelling headphones, there's a handy second headphone jack so you can use your own without an adaptor.
The premium economy cabin gets a dedicated crew so the inflight service isn't the frenzied trolley dash it can sometimes feel on shorter flights. Crew have time to stop and chat and they do so with genuine interest. Additional touches that help elevate the experience include hot towels, a glass of Dulcet sparkling wine and a bottle of water waiting on the seat.
A printed menu outlines a three-course lunch of prosciutto with grilled artichokes and goat's cheese to start followed by a choice of crumbed beef fillet, Malabar prawn curry or roasted chicken breast salad. Dessert is a lemon brulee tart with mascarpone cream. The servings are generous and the presentation is good, but none of the dishes shine. Premium features include proper cutlery, cloth napkins, a selection of breads and decent-sized mugs of tea and coffee.
ONE MORE THING
Passengers can use the Air NZ premium check-in area at Auckland Airport, an oasis of purple-hued serenity with dedicated check-in staff and priority lift access to customs.
It's easy to see why Air NZ has won Best Premium Economy Class in the SkyTrax Airline Awards for the last three years. While it might be difficult to justify the extra cost for a hop across the Tasman, if it was the first leg of a longer journey, it'd be a worthwhile investment.
Our rating out of five: ★★★★½
Tested by Rob McFarland, who travelled as a guest of Air New Zealand.