Melbourne to Christchurch
Airbus A320; Air New Zealand has 28 of these aircraft in its fleet.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Airpoints (Star Alliance)
Economy, seat 2A
3 hours, 30 minutes
The layout is 3-3 for the entire plane. There is 30-34 inches (76-86cm) of seat pitch in economy class, with seats reclining five centimetres. The seat is roomy enough for an All Black rugby player at a width of 17 inches, but don't fight him for the armrest. The overhead storage rack is spacious, while the personal magazine rack readily expands for the over-packer. An in-seat USB plug is handy to keep you fully charged.
One checked bag weighing up to 23 kilograms, with one carry-on bag permitted weighing up to seven kilograms.
A nine-inch LCD screen features more than 900 hours of entertainment options, according to the airline. The movie selection is good, with plenty of recent releases (Cinderella and Big Eyes), while episodes of popular television shows like Game of Thrones and Veep are also on offer. Noise cancelling earphones are provided.
Air New Zealand's fleet of A320 operating across the Tasman and Pacific is democratic in seat style, but offers passengers a range of options from seat only to The Works Deluxe .
Inflight entertainment that operates as soon as you are seated until you are ready to disembark reduces the tedium of travelling, especially when there's a flight delay. The bathrooms remained clean and fully stocked for the entire journey – something that cannot be said for other economy cabins.
Charming – like stumbling onto the set of Shortland Street. Air New Zealand crew members are friendly but not overfamilar, efficient, but never brusque. Front of cabin crew Serena and Bonnie introduced themselves at the start of the flight and found time for a quick chat between dispensing breakfast and beverages.
For a morning flight across the Tasman, The Works option offers two breakfast options – hot or cold continental. Some, including me, like it hot, and the fluffy scrambled eggs, pork rissoles and lightly fried potatoes does not let me down. With a fruit salad and muffin, it's a substantial meal. The usual tea (Dilmah), coffee (Robert Harris), water and juices are available.
Passengers can also buy reasonably priced drinks, snacks and $NZ8 sandwiches from the menu. A fellow passenger had impressively downed three glasses of Sauv Blanc by the time we touched down in Christchurch.
ONE MORE THING
Air New Zealand's check-in/bag-tagging machines in Melbourne are fast and efficient. A long delay taking off meant hustling to catch the connecting flight to Queenstown, which ended up cancelled due to bad weather. Air New Zealand ground staff in Christchurch sorted out new flights and hotel accommodation with a minimum of fuss.
It's worth flying Air New Zealand just to watch the in-flight safety videos. Past efforts have featured Bear Grylls, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, the All Blacks New Zealand rugby team and characters from Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. The latest safety video, Surfing Safari, features top surfers like Alana Blanchard, Gabriel Medina and Mick Fanning demonstrating the brace position and how to put on a life jacket in lovely surf spots. It's the only in-flight safety video that captures my attention.
Air New Zealand flies Melbourne to Christchurch daily.
Tested by Andrew Taylor, who flew courtesy of Air New Zealand.