Tuesday Trip Report: 777 on Air New Zealand 777

After 43 years of flying I flew on my 777th flight.

My plane parked at LAX gate
In a previous Blog post, I was trying to decide whether to fly my 777th on an Air New Zealand or V Australia 777. I appreciated the advice from friends to try Air NZ's new 777-300 and was glad I did. I have recently blogged about V's superb business class product on the 777-300. This Air NZ flight gave me lots of opportunity for comparison.

For those who haven't been following: I flew #737 on a Southwest B737, #747 on a Qantas 747, #757 with United and #767 with Qantas. For some the number 777 represents perfection and my 777th flight was indeed close to perfect! I took 78 pictures would you believe?!

Check In: 10 out of 10
Air NZ have a dedicated Check in for Business and Gold passengers at Auckland Airport.  The beauty of this is that a lift (elevator) leads straight from the check in straight into customs, immigration and security. The time saved walking around the long way is brilliant. Worth staying gold for just for this feature! I checked in early, was the only one using the check in area and was through the whole process in just under 10 minutes!

Lounge: 10 out of 10
V Australia use Air NZ's lounge so any comparison isn't warranted. The NZ lounges continue to be superb. I enjoyed wifi, meal, snacks and a shower. I ate carefully because I wanted to save room for the on board meal!

While waiting in the lounge, I met the on board Concierge, Belinda (pictured next to me).  I have not seen this innovation on any other airline and its beyond impressive.  My previous experience suggest that the team that Air NZ have chosen for this role are all very good and Belinda was no exception. Concierges answer questions, problem solve, help develop itineraries and make life aboard more pleasant for travellers. Belinda was saying she gets a huge variety of questions – from “can I store luggage at LAX” to “where do I connect?" to "what restaurants are good in San Francisco". I introduced myself to Belinda as the plane geek flying for the 777th time on a 777. She acknowledged me telling me that she had been sent a message from reservations to that effect.

Boarding 9/10
After leaving the lounge, we had another passport and boarding pass  check. Some passengers were randomly searched. How someone can have got through check in and immigration with a wrong or false passport I don't know. It seems like overkill. Do they really think they will catch them at this point?

There was almost no line up for the priority boarding line and I zapped through it being wished a good flight by ground staff. Belinda was on hand in the lounge area and welcomed me by name which was a nice touch.

There was a small line to get on the actual 777 but it was moving quickly. There was a sign in the passageway reminding passengers to have their boarding pass ready to show in the aircraft. I have not seen that before but it is helpful especially for people who are not expecting this. I have noted there are some countries where the staff don't look at the boarding pass as you enter the aircraft. On board, I was  invited to go left into the front business class cabin.

On Board: 10 out of 10
The Air NZ 777-300 has three cabins as does V Australia. V dedicates more of their plane to Economy.

Air NZ
V Australia
Premium Economy

Air NZ
V Aust

You will see from the diagram that Air NZ have opted for the herringbone design resulting in four seats across the Business cabin as opposed to V Australia's more traditional layout with seven across.

The front cabin was about half full on this flight.  There were plenty of staff bustling around. Within seconds of putting my bags in the roomy overhead locker, a flight attendant appeared to take my jacket for hanging.
Seconds later, another approached bearing drinks. I asked for champagne.
She smiled and said:  "I can give you sparkling wine on the ground and champagne in the air. Well at least until we beat the French in the Rugby" (which they did indeed do, a few days later 37-17).

I said “oops. Forgot about the French". 

The Air NZ Business Class Seat: 9 out of 10

I sipped my drink and enjoyed my cashews as I inspected my seat.

The seat is leather 22" wide. It has a separate ottoman footrest which you can store stuff on, invite visitors to sit on when chatting to you or put your feet on. 
The seat has a 12" TV screen which could be moved into multiple angles, life jacket, a very small pocket (I felt Qantas and V Australia have a little more stowage room around the seat and I like the way QF has a slot available for a bottle of water. The Air NZ bottle didn't seem to quite fit anywhere.

Headphones were noise cancelling.

Next inspection was the all important amenities kit. Coming in a big box the kit consisted of a very colourful pair o f socks, and La Prairie brand moisturiser etc. Air NZ didn't provide a toiletries kit. I would love an airline to give me a quality clear sturdy plastic kit I can take through security anywhere in the world.

Auckland Newspapers and international  magazines were distributed. There was some disquiet from some passengers that there were no Wellington or international newspapers. 

Safety: 10 out of 10

The safety briefing was the humorous Air NZ rugby one. I always feel that Air NZ take safety seriously without officiousness and try to engage their passengers in the safety process. I did wonder what non-Kiwis would make of some of the "in-jokes" in the video briefing.

Takeoff: 9 out of 10
2130 (930pm) Takeoff out of Auckland was pretty with the city lights  spread out below. There were a few minor bumps out of Auckland but nothing dramatic. The seat-belt sign soon went off but came back on very quickly, however as we hit some turbulence. This  seemed to be the pattern for the first half of the flight. The sensation of sitting at an angle to the direction of takeoff and landing is one I have not got used to. It does feel quite odd.

Dinner: 10 out of 10
There were three choices with Business Premier for dinner:

  1.  Express option which gets a meal out very quickly 
  2.  Full meal option at the Crew's timing
  3. Meals when you wanted them
Sorry folks, I am not sitting up front to have an express soup and sandwich and I went for the works and must admit I was probably a little piggy.

  • Entree (starter for the Americans) was a cold mixed seafood dish with a choice of breads. Superb. I combined it with a Bird Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.
  • I chose a streak for the main course. This was accompanied by a Syrah wine which was a little drier than I wanted.
  • For dessert, I chose an ice cream sundae which was delicious if not unusual. Vanilla ice-cream with popcorn and a yummy sauce. This was followed by a cheese platter. I accompanied these dishes with a lovely dessert wine which I forgot to note down.
The team turned my seat into my bed with a nice thick mattress, duvet and two pillows- duck feather and hypo allergenic. Air NZ do not appear to provide pyjamas. Qantas and V do so I wore my Qantas Pjs on this Air NZ flight!

Sleep came quickly and I reckon I got about seven hours. The bed is a little more comfortable than Qantas business class bed and about the same as V Australia's bed. Air NZ mattress is probably a little more comfortable than V Australia;s but I did feel a little strange sleeping at an angle. I must have overcome that because I slept for almost seven hours-soundly.

Snug in my bed-thank you

I must tell you about the lavatories on board (I ended up inspecting almost all of them!). Two of the three business class ones have real windows in them so you can look out at the clouds while using the facilities. The lavatory for disabled people has a mural of a bookcase in it.

I was more restrained with Breakfast having fruit, muesli and yogurt and a croissant  This is where the 777 fun really started. The crew really went out of their way to celebrate the fact it was my 777th flight.

Using ingredients on board they had made Little decorative plaques celebrating with me. Thank you.

We were right on time into a smoggy lax. We left at 930pm NZ time and landed into lax at 240pm the same day because of crossing the dateline.

The amazing Air NZ team
It was hard to fault this flight. It confirmed to me that on this sector that V Australia and Air NZ now lead business class with Qantas following. Way at the bottom on this sector is the woeful United offering. I haven't tried Delta's Business Class on this sector yet. That's for 2012!

Thank you to the Captain and the whole crew of NZ2 for a superb flight.

Next big flights? I was hoping for 787 for my 787th but that's not going to happen because the plane will start flying the week after that milestone. Instead I have A380 flights with three of the carriers I have not sampled the A380 with yet: Korean, Lufthansa and Air France. 

Below is a summary of my 777 flights and a world map showing where they have taken me. Some other Flightmemory facts:
I have flown Air New Zealand 39 times travelling 2 times around the world.
I have only flown the 777 17 times including this flight. 

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