Air NZ: NZ105 AKL-SYD Economy
The previous reports gave an insight to Air New Zealand’s domestic service– the first one on their jet service and the second on their large turboprops. This one should hopefully show you what Air New Zealand’s short haul international service in economy is like. Hope you enjoy it!
Air New Zealand is based primarily in Auckland with a lot of domestic and international flights daily. Their international service sees direct flights between AKL and Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii, California, Vancouver and London served through HKG and LAX. For their flights to Sydney, they use a combination of A320s, 767-300ERs, 777-200ERs and the very occasional 747-400. Most of the Trans Tasman flights are done by the A320 and the 767-300ER.
The reason for my trip to Sydney was to be able to catch the first commercial (and scheduled) A380 flight into New Zealand on Emirates. I decided to go to Sydney before rather than after the event (getting on the inbound A380 rather than outbound) so I could be in Sydney for Australia Day and a few other things. I originally booked myself on NZ107 (see the resemblance with my username? :-D) – a 767; but then due to declining demand, it was downgraded to an A320 (consequently the alteration of the flight number to NZ707 followed). I then asked for a flight change to NZ105 so that I could go on a 767. Luckily for me, they granted me with a free change but told me that it’d cost me $100 if I changed it again. NZ105 departs AKL a few hours earlier than NZ107.
Auckland to Sydney is an important link between the two biggest cities in New Zealand and Australia respectively. This route is the largest international route by volume of passengers departing from either Australia or New Zealand and a total of seven airlines: Air New Zealand, Qantas, Emirates, Lan, China Airlines, Jetstar and Pacific Blue. Although it is fairly low yielding, it carries a lot of business traffic between the two biggest cities of the respective countries and still has greater passenger volumes than the likes of SYD-SIN.
Air New Zealand retrofitted their A320 and 763 fleets to incorporate PTVs with AVOD and new seats. Previously, all they had was a projector on the bulkhead, a few TV screens every few aisles and no selection.
After taking a look at seat guru, I decided against a Space+ seat which became available in an apparent row which had a window missing. Space+ seats in the 767 give you another 3+ inches of legroom and at least 1 inch more recline. I settled for 24A. I chose the Port window seat as I hoped I would get a view of the city on our approach to Sydney, similar to when I flew Emirates’ 777-300ER to Sydney in 2007, when we landed from the north. This time with a Digital SLR I thought I’d have a chance at getting a good shot of the city.
Sydney During Downwind Leg On My Last Visit
Auckland Airport is New Zealand’s largest airport and the 3rd largest airport in Australasia in terms of passenger volume. Its international terminal has recently received a new pier which has 2 gates with double airbridges, ready for the A380. These airbridges can also be swung around to form 4 smaller stands for aircraft such as A320s and 737s. It handles all kinds of traffic and now the A380 also flies here. The main international pier is made up of 10 gates, most of them are 744 capable but all of these gates only have single airbridges. . The layout of the forecourt has changed dramatically from a couple of years ago and now does not have any metered parking. All parking is now diverted to the main carpark. The innermost lane, which leads directly to the building and check in area, has had a major turnaround from public traffic to now only allowing taxis, shuttles and buses.
Approaching The Airport
The International Terminal
I checked in straight away and to my surprise, there was basically no queue. Within a minute of being in line, I moved to a check in counter; one of about 90 in the terminal. The ground agent took my passport and did everything from there. It wasn’t very personal but it only took a couple of minutes. I was thankful that she didn’t reject my 24kg bag saying it was too heavy! With my boarding pass in hand, it was time to take a look around the terminal.
Air New Zealand Premium Check In Area
Normal Check In Area
International Departure FIDS
Extended Check In Area
Landside Departure Hall
The landside departure hall, upstairs from the check in area, hasn’t changed much in many years: just a few shops changing hands and a few more opening up in the once empty area in the middle. A few shops, McDonalds and a food court caps off the departure hall of the biggest airport in the country. An escalator rising above the security area leads to the observation decks. Although there is a lot of glass, you are able to see half of the international pier and look down past the domestic terminal to incoming traffic on certain days.
Auckland's Observation Deck
I spent way too long up on the observation deck waiting for the CX 744 to depart and didn’t realise that the time was flying past. The immigration queue in Auckland gave 4 customs officers to the few families and special needs people that went through and the majority of people were stuck with two officers. This took about 20-25 minutes when it should have only taken 10. Very poor considering there was a sign in front of each customs booth with “We deliver the best welcome and customs experience in the Pacific”. Inference taken here: the Pacific must be pretty awful to clear customs in if this experience was supposed to be the best! But finally I was on my way to do a tiny bit of exploring. I quickly went halfway down the new pier to take a few photos of the 2 Emirates planes and ran back just in case I missed the flight.. I didn’t really want the following message to come across the PA system either: “Paging passenger Young on flight NZ 105 to Sydney, please go immediately to gate seven. Your aircraft is ready to depart and all other passengers are waiting for you”. From immigration right up to gates 5 and 6, there are shops, lounges, a chapel and a food court. Beyond gates 5 and 6 there is barely anything but a bit of seating and a few decorations, mainly foliage. Due to this rush, I went straight into the queue to board the plane without taking any pictures until I was on the jetway.
The Way Airside
Plane Of New Zealand’s Most Famous Female Aviator, Jean Batten
Shopping Just Past Immigration
Walkway To The New Pier
Departing FIDS With Information About Boarding Time
Walkway To Gates 15 and 16 On The New Pier
The Other Pier
21 Jan 2009
Routing: Auckland – Sydney (AKL-SYD)
Airline: Air New Zealand
Scheduled Time of Departure: 1600hrs
Actual Time of Departure: 1555 approx (pushback), 1611 (rotate)
Scheduled Time Of Arrival: 1730
Flight Time: 2 hr 3 min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-319ER
Air New Zealand now has five 763s in their fleet. ZK-NCL arrived new from Boeing in late October 1997. With the aircraft being just over 11 years old, Air New Zealand will keep this fleet until the 787-9s arrive. They now have blended winglets fitted to them to increase their efficiency. Air New Zealand have sent the 767-300 on quite long routes including, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Perth, Denpasar, Honolulu and Los Angeles via Apia, Papeete, Rarotonga and Nadi.
As I entered the plane, it seemed to be very spacious after my experiences on the 737, Dash 8 and ATR 72. After sitting down, I realised that the cabin was really hot and began to wonder if they were trying to acclimatise us for the boiling temperatures which would greet us in Sydney. Nevertheless, the plane continued to fill and it seemed to be around 85% full. I find it fascinating that the online seat request often shows the plane 1/3 full until a couple of days out when it becomes apparent that the flight would be much fuller than expected. I was really looking forward to having an empty seat next to me. Too bad it wasn’t the case.
I started playing around with the IFE to see if Airshow would be working on this aircraft but after I clicked on it, the screen went black and I had to press the home button on the remote to get the system back to normal. It was a shame because what went with the Airshow program were the maps, the camera views, speeds, altitude and other bits of information that keep the flight interesting. Air New Zealand’s selection of movies, music and TV shows didn’t seem to be that comprehensive during my flick through of services, however having a PTV and AVOD is a big and a much needed improvement to how things have been in the past. One positive of Air New Zealand’s IFE is that you can create a music playlist out of all the available tracks on the system. Of course having an iPod would be much better as you have your own preference of songs etc but it’s not bad. I didn’t try out the USB photo viewer but that is also a nice inclusion, possibly better for those longer haul flights.
Screen And Control
Air New Zealand’s 767 economy seat is quite comfortable. 32 inches of legroom is ample for someone like me and the recline isn’t bad. The new colours are much darker than the previous seats, similar to what is in the 737, were. The tray table is halved to increase room for the PTV and they have netting for a drink bottle in front of the seat pocket. The extra 3 inches from the Space+ seat would have been quite nice. If it’s offered to you, there’s no point in letting an opportunity to get service first and more space slip past!
Seats 15A And B: Window’s Not Too Bad!
After half an hour of sitting on the plane and fiddling with the IFE, we pushed back from the gate: next stop Sydney. It looked like such a nice day to be flying and it didn’t disappoint! Takeoff on 23L was quite powerful and before too long we were airborne.
It was a good 40 minutes before the flight attendants came around to serve an afternoon tea/dinner kind of meal. What was offered was chicken cordon bleu with sweet potato (kumara) and a little bit of salad or pasta bake with lamb and some kind of raspberry (sauce?). For dessert there was a small tub of Kapiti Pohutakawa Honey ice cream. After the food trolley passed, it was shortly followed with the drinks trolley. I grabbed a red wine and a Coke. It was a very satisfying meal but I really wish it was bigger. Air New Zealand started these “cafe” style meals around 2002. I don’t think their purpose was to fill you up, more keep you from being hungry on this flight.
Flight Attendants Doing The Drink Run
The rest of the flight was quite uneventful with the odd bump, making the pilots turn on the seat belt sign but this was very minor turbulence. Crew continually came around to top up drinks. Cruising at FL370, we were way above the clouds. I decided to check out the rear lavatory and take a few pictures of the cabin. I left it quite late as the flight attendants had already instructed some kids to hand out the Air New Zealand lollies. I was so glad to see the Air New Zealand lollies again, and in abundance too!
Rear Economy Toilet
Knowing that we were descending, I knew that we weren’t too far out from the airport. A few manoeuvres got us close enough so that we could see land. On my first sighting of land, I noticed a bushfire burning away to the south and really miserable weather all around. We banked right to get closer to the flight path for 34L and while we were doing that, a few flashes of lightning were discharged somewhere over Sydney. The lightning continued right throughout our descent.
Once we were over the threshold, I spotted a BA 772, SQ A380, QF A380 and a QF 763 holding short. A smooth touchdown was accompanied by me taking tonnes of unsuccessful pictures hoping for some lightning strikes. The plane soon had a short taxi to gate 60 to conclude the rather enjoyable flight. I took a few pictures on my way out. Customs didn’t take too long, luggage didn’t either and the query on my declared food didn’t even require me to get anything out or x-ray anything so I was happy. I walked outside to 30 degree temperatures and began my rather warm holiday in Sydney!
Bushfires And Rain
Sorry For The Quality: BA 772
Gate I’d Use When Departing On The A380
Air New Zealand is a good airline to fly. Their service on the short hop across the Tasman was great. The one thing I like about the 767s is that you only have one person to climb over if you’re on the window seat, and this along with many other choices (extra seat recline, pitch and width I think) is the reason why I opted for the 767 over the A320. The flight attendants did perform above satisfaction and were fine with me taking plenty of pictures before disembarking. I couldn’t have asked much more of them. The only thing I was slightly disappointed with was the size of meal portions. The seats were comfortable and I could have spent much longer on the plane if I needed to. The back of the normal economy class cabin has less legroom than the front of normal economy class but if any opportunity arises where you area able to get into the Space+ cabin, take that seat.