Review: Air New Zealand Business Class, Auckland to Shanghai

Air New Zealand Business Class

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After spending a week on the island of Aitutaki, I flew back to Europe with a huge detour, in Air New Zealand Business class from Auckland to Shanghai. Not the most direct route to Europe, but when I was putting the pieces of this trip together, I really wanted to fly the Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Air New Zealand Business Class
The route

I hoped to be on the all black Dreamliner as I really like that colour scheme, in homage to the All Blacks, the national rugby team of New Zealand. Unfortunately it was a Dreamliner in the more familiar black and white colours, which doesn’t make a big difference, but still… Before my flight I had a 18 hour layover in Auckland, but I had cannily booked the Novotel at the airport. It gave me the chance to rest and refresh myself before the long flight to Shanghai.

Air New Zealand Lounge – Auckland

I had already visited the Air New Zealand lounge on my way to the South Pacific. This has to be one of the better lounges that I visited during my entire trip. It’s quite big in size, but despite that it can still feel crowded at times.

The number of people in the lounge fluctuated, depending on the number of flights departing Auckland airport and the time of day. Most of the times I was able to find a quiet spot to sit down.

The food served in the lounge is great. During lunch and dinner there will be a chef in the lounge who prepares fresh food on the spot. I mostly ate light meals, like pasta and chicken salad.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Great food in the lounge

I really love cheese, so I was happy to see there was an abundance of different cheeses at the buffet. It’s the perfectly combined with a glass of champagne.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Cheese plate and champagne in the lounge
Air New Zealand Business Class
Yummy dessert

All this flying in business class and lounge visits is giving me almost constant access to unlimited, free alcohol… A little dangerous, perhaps, but what’s a lounge without a glass of champagne or whisky? I certainly like them both and can handle quite a bit of alcohol. It’s good for calming the nerves you know.

Air New Zealand Business Class
What’s a lounge without whisky?

The shirt I was wearing caused people to look at me quite often, they just smiled when they were able to read what it said.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Can we just skip to the part of my life where I travel the world?

Boarding

After spending quite some time at the lounge I could finally go to the gate as boarding had started. But not before I had my daily dose of nicotine. Yes I know it’s a bad habit… But despite that, I was glad that Auckland airport had an outside smoking area after security.

Before I even reached the gate my boarding pass was checked again and then I was allowed to head down the escalator to the pre boarding area. It was a very tiny area with way too many people in it.

Unfortunately, manners were put aside as soon as the gathered crowds saw the Air NZ staff reach for the microphone to announce boarding, it turned crazy as everyone just gathered in one big group. They all just stood in front of all the lanes, it didn’t matter if it was priority boarding lane or not. Everything was blocked.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Boarding pass

Fortunately there was a staff member that spoke Mandarin and quickly sorted everyone out. After that, there were only business class passengers in the priority lane, way better! This was more like it, I was so looking forward to this flight.

Onboard

I walked towards the plane and stepped through the door of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The thing that stood out immediately was how happy the crew seemed. They were joking with each other and really friendly to all the passengers. A genuine smile does so much! The cabin looked great with the mood lighting, but despite all the good things there were two things that I found to be negative.

First of all, the temperature in the cabin, it felt like a sauna. A bit weird that they would put up the temperature this much. Although it was changing from Autumn to Winter outside, it wasn’t that cold. Sweat immediately starting dripping down my back, not a nice feeling before a 12.5 hour flight.

The second disappointment was the chair. While this is a vital part of enjoying a good flight, I didn’t like the fish bone pattern that the seats were in. It felt like the seats were too close next to each other. I would be seated on the left side of the aisle. It felt like the seat had little to no privacy, I could look over the separation between the chairs and see everything the passenger in front of me was doing.

I’m not the biggest person but I found the seat to be narrow compared to other flights I had flown in business class before this one.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Seat 2K

The legroom wasn’t great either due to the position of the foot rest. I bumped into it every time with my long legs. It should be good for the average person, but not for me. As soon as I wanted to put my chair in a lower seating position, it meant I had to put my legs on the foot rest so I would have a bit more space.

Air New Zealand Business Class
I only just fit

When I put the seat in lie flat position I couldn’t stretch my legs. My head would be against the head rest and my feet pushing against the edge of the foot rest. If I wanted to get some sleep on this flight, I would need to lay on my side and pull up my legs a bit.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Only just enough legroom

This was a flight that I was so eager to take and so all these things didn’t make me happy. I told myself to make the best of it. Not a minute later, however, I heard the passenger behind me lower his seat and his feet popped out at the end, WTF!?

Air New Zealand Business Class
The feet of my neighbour

Service

Despite the issues noted above, the crew made up for it with their excellent service. It just showed how much they enjoyed their job. A huge difference to some other carriers where crew members walk around with a sour face.

As soon as I entered the cabin, one of the crew members escorted me to my seat. She even asked me if she could put away my trolley. I just sat down in my seat, and when she came back again there was more: “Would you care for some champagne MrJansen?” “Oh yes please!”, what a nice welcome this was! Of course the warm nuts are a must have.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Warm nuts
Air New Zealand Business Class
Pre departure champagne

Besides a glass of champagne, she also handed me the menu. An extensive menu, which began with an introduction to the chef.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Welcome!
Air New Zealand Business Class
Introduction about Peter Gordon

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I went for the shrimp starter, followed by a steak with wasabi crust as main course. Both dishes were very nice.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Starter
Air New Zealand Business Class
Delicious shrimp

The crew gave me plenty of time after my starter to drink another glass of champagne. They checked on me several times to see if I needed anything else until the main course was served.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Main course, steak with wasabi crust

I skipped dessert even though I have a sweet tooth. All the food I had had in the lounge prior to my flight and the food on board was enough for now. It was going to be a long flight so I wanted to lay down and relax, maybe watch a movie and then fall asleep.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Long time to go…

Around an hour had passed since the meal service had finished, and I still had over 11 hours to go before arriving in Shanghai. The screen of the IFE (In Flight Entertainment) system could be folded out of the wall and then pulled towards me. I went through the catalogue and soon found something I liked.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Great movie if you’re into Tarantino!

The movie lasted for about 3 hours and when I’d finished, I asked the stewardess if she could make my bed. I had had plenty to drink by that time, so I was ready for a good night sleep. When she was done I asked her to wake me up about one hour prior to landing in Shanghai. That way I would still have some time to eat a bit of breakfast.

A blanket was overkill as the temperature in the cabin was still way too warm for my liking. As a consequence I kept sweating during my sleep. Nevertheless I still managed to get a good sleep until the stewardess woke me up for breakfast.

The first thing I asked for was a cup of green tea and some yoghurt with muesli.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Light breakfast of yoghurt and muesli

My appetite was bigger than I had anticipated and so I asked the crew if they had anything else for breakfast. I got a croissant and an omelette. The omelette was very rich and tasty, I now had fueled up sufficiently to survive my layover in Shanghai.

Air New Zealand Business Class
Croissant
Air New Zealand Business Class
Tasty omelette

Conclusion

After landing in Shanghai it took a long time before the plane finally came to a stop. Our designated gate was occupied so the plane had to go to a remote stand. We would be transferred to the terminal with a bus. I thanked the crew for their service and smiles, and they somehow seemed surprised about receiving the compliment.

All in all it was a nice experience, but the width of the seat was too narrow and the temperature in the cabin was way too warm for me. These two factors play a huge role in making a flight comfotable.

If I needed to put a number on this complete experience, I would give it a 6 out of 10. As I wrote before, the service largely made up for the downsides, but in terms of the hard product, I was disappointed.

Comments

  1. Adam says

    Loving this site, quickly becoming my favourite flyer forum. Any chance of someone covering the route LON – SEZ in biz for the cheapest way. Qatar starts again this Dec but using codeshare via baec is an eyewatering amount of avios points.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I’ll have a think and send you a PM on the forum next week (currently away), unless someone else beats me to it! Should be able to come up with something decent I reckon.

  2. Adam says

    Thanks Joe, codeshare on BAEC came to 390k avios on Qatar biz for 2 return plus £900 odd in taxes. 😥

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Adam,

      Decided to post my thoughts on here in case others are interested too.

      Ian is right about AA charging for 2 awards. OneWorld has VERY poor coverage in Africa so despite the superficially attractive American Airlines Africa-Africa award price (17,500 one way in Business!), getting a cheap/Avios flight to marrakech or somewhere and starting from there isn’t really an option. You could potentially use Avios to the Middle East (Air Berlin to Abu Dhabi is a great deal if you’re not in a rush) and then AA Miles, but you’d still need 110,000 AA Miles Return + about 80,000 Avios so not a huge saving (the cash component would be a lot less though I suppose).

      The best option in terms of absolute value that I can think of is a bit of an odd one (but shouldn’t be discounted for that!) – use ANA Mileage Club Miles to book Etihad. It’s only 68,000 Miles Return in Business from Europe with no fuel surcharges, which is obviously incredible.

      Getting ANA Miles isn’t too bad because they are an SPG transfer partner (and you can buy SPG Points at a fair but not great price – about 2.62 pence each- if you don’t have enough. They have regular bonuses sales, so I wouldn’t rush). You should also be able to transfer from IHG (10,000 Points = 2,000 Miles) and Hilton (10,000 Points = 1,000 Miles) to top up if required. Return Business Class from London to the Seychelles on Etihad for 58,000 Starpoints (remember the 5k bonuses for transferring in blocks of 20k) is a steal!

      It’s worth mentioning that if you happen to have any American friends/family who collect Points/Miles, they can transfer their version of Amex Membership Rewards Points directly to ANA at a 1:1 ratio, which makes the award ridiculously cheap.

      The real potential downside is that you would have to deal with ANAs call centre to book the award, which might be easier said than done (or they might be very good, I really have no idea)

      • Joe Deeney says

        If ANA seems a bit too outlandish, you might want to consider United. They charge 60,000 Return in Business from North Africa to the rest of Africa, so you could book a cheap/avios flight to Morocco and start the award from there. They also allow a free stopover so you could see South Africa or something on the way. Star Alliance has great coverage in Africa (Ethiopian, South African, EgyptAir) too which should make things easier.

        Transferring SPG Points to United is no good (bad transfer ratio), but other hotel points are the same transfer ratios as usual, and there is the Uk credit card to consider if you can find a way to manufacture a lot of spend. You can also pick up some hefty chunks from RocketMiles, Kaligo etc by playing the signup bonuses a bit.

        • Joe Deeney says

          United don’t charge any surcharges by the way.

          You might also want to have a look at the award charts for other Star Alliance members Africa regions, because I am by no means an expert on Star Alliance or travelling to/within Africa and there might be some absolute bargains I don’t know about!

          • Joe Deeney says

            Finally, if you happen to have a decent stash of Etihad Guest Miles (or Amex MR Points, which you can transfer), you can book directly with Etihad from Abu Dhabi (use Avios etc to get there) for about 80,000 +£400 Return in Biz.

            It’s also supposedly possible to book return from paris on air seychelles using 125,672 etihad miles (no idea about surcharges), but booking etihad partners can be an extremely ‘interesting’ experience…

  3. Adam says

    Etihad do fly there from Lon, but not sure how many AA miles it would take and how i can aquire that many AA miles cheaply to outweigh the avios points and taxes.
    Any ideas from Lon would be really appreciated, have lots of avios..

  4. Ian Macky says

    Adam,

    I think a biz Etihad flight using AA miles will price out as 2 awards Europe-Middle east @42.5K in biz and Middle east to Africa @55K in biz, so 97.5K AA miles 1-way.

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