Brisbane to Auckland
Air New Zealand
NZ146 (travel bubble flight)
- Direct aisle access from every seat
- Laurent-Perrier Champagne, including before take-off
- No printed menu makes it hard to plan meals, pair drinks
- AirNZ's best aircraft now flies across the Tasman
New Zealand is once again open to Australia, with the trans-Tasman 'travel bubble' allowing passengers to jet between the two countries without facing mandatory quarantine.
Across to Auckland, your choices in business class are currently Qantas or Air New Zealand: and AirNZ puts its best foot forward, using its Boeing 787 Dreamliners on selected 'safe travel zone' flights.
Executive Traveller took to the newly-opened international skies to bring you this review.
- Frequent flyer program: AirNZ Airpoints, Star Alliance. Miles can also be earned and spent via partner programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and United MileagePlus.
- Checked baggage allowance:
- 3x23kg: applies to most passengers, regardless of status.
- 4x23kg: Airpoints Gold and Elite members on tickets including two or more Star Alliance airlines (which would mean a connection outside the 'travel bubble').
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x118cm bags at a combined total weight of 14kg (max. 10kg per item), plus one 'small item' such as a briefcase or handbag.
- Airport fast-track: Priority check-in for business class passengers is clearly signed in Brisbane, although Brisbane Airport currently offers no Express Path facilities on departure or arrival, nor does Auckland Airport on arrival. Bags are priority-tagged, however.
At Brisbane Airport, Air New Zealand's dedicated lounge is back in full swing, and opens 2.5 hours prior to each AirNZ flight.
In place of the previous buffet, service is assisted. Staff are at-hand to explain your options and plate up your choices, with sandwiches and scones being popular items during this late morning visit.
Although staff prepare your food and drinks, coffee remains of the 'machine made' variety rather than being barista-brewed, as was the case here prior to COVID.
Bar service is available whenever the lounge is open, so you're free to toast to your trans-Tasman travels regardless of the time – Auckland is two hours ahead of Brisbane, after all!
With the lounge being a good size – and previously accommodating not only Air New Zealand passengers but also those of Air Canada, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, and Thai Airways, often at the same time – social distancing was more than possible, with the nearest seated passenger many metres away.
Air New Zealand currently offers daily Boeing 787-9 return flights between Brisbane and Auckland, along with daily Airbus A320 or A320neo-family flights on the same route.
Only the Dreamliner offers business class, however – so if an Airbus flight is a better fit for your schedule, the best experience you can book is Works Deluxe.
AirNZ's Boeing 787s also appear on selected flights between Auckland and both Sydney and Melbourne, as well as all AirNZ flights between Auckland and Perth.
The airline's flights between Australia and other destinations in New Zealand, such as Christchurch, Queenstown or Wellington, are typically operated by those A320 or A320neo family of aircraft.
In any case, all of AirNZ's trans-Tasman flights are now 'safe travel zone' departures.
This means travellers must have only spent time in Australia and/or New Zealand prior to their journey, to fly quarantine-free.
Important steps: What you need to do before travelling to NZ
Business class aboard Air New Zealand's Boeing 787-9s comes in a 1-1-1 configuration (lettered as A-J-K), with some jets having six rows of Business Premier, and others (like this) having nine.
If you haven't flown on AirNZ's Dreamliners before, you might recognise the seat as being what you'd find aboard the airline's (currently grounded) Boeing 777 jets, as well as the Boeing 787s of other carriers like Virgin Atlantic.
As these seats face towards the aisle, it's worth pointing out that those on the starboard side (seats 'J' and 'K') face each other, while those on the port-side aisle (the 'A' seats) enjoy significantly more privacy, facing a barrier rather than another passenger.
As a solo traveller, choosing an 'A' seat was an easy decision: and on longer flights, this means fewer disruptions and a better night's sleep after the seat is folded into 'bed mode'.
Understandably, bedding isn't provided on these short trans-Tasman hops – nor was it available on these routes prior to COVID – although trans-Tasman flyers still get a pillow.
When sitting upright, however, the pillow significantly reduced the available space at the seat and made the experience less comfortable.
This saw the pillow lobbed into the overhead locker before take-off and remain there until landing, as there was no need to lie flat on a three-hour daytime departure.
If you do flip the seat over, the ottoman forms the end of your 2m bed – but otherwise, serves as a fixed foot rest, and also as a companion seat with its own seat belt, if you'd like to chat or dine with a fellow traveller during the flight.
Its hollow structure means there's still plenty of space to stretch your feet forwards, or to use that area as storage.
A sturdy tray table can be retrieved from nearby, sliding backwards and forwards as needed.
To retrieve it, you'll need to press the 'table' button on the seat's control panel which pops open the tray hatch, and then physically push the tray down into itself to unlock it, before pulling it up and out.
There's also a small shelf to the side – suitable for drinks and snacks – that folds down after being pressed inwards.
In terms of storage, there's a nook to your side large enough for a laptop or tablet, plus thicker items like headphones.
It's also where you'll find the safety information card, as well as an international-style AC power point.
Above that, there's a shelf that becomes accessible during the flight, perfect for keeping small items like your smartphone at the ready.
On this configuration of the Boeing 787-9 (labelled "V2" on the airline's website), AirNZ offers 27 Business Premier seats. Some of NZ's Boeing 787-9s instead have just 18, but whichever Dreamliner serves your departure, the seat is the same.
Pre-departure drinks are offered shortly after boarding, with Laurent-Perrier Champagne being an easy choice.
After take-off, bar service continues: but as Air New Zealand isn't providing passengers with a printed menu or a beverage list – nor could the crew offer more detail than "beer, wine, spirits, etc." at this point, when asked what the options were – I stuck with the Champagne.
As I found later in the flight, the entertainment system has a more comprehensive drinks list. You can also place orders through the screen, but this wasn't necessary as the crew kept glasses topped up without needing to be asked.
With a midday departure from Brisbane, the meal to Auckland is lunch, beginning with a five-spice chicken, a side of bread, and dessert for later (a vanilla and berry mousse), plus cheese and crackers.
Preferences for the main course were taken before take-off, with choices explained verbally. Options given were lamb, snapper, or prosciutto-wrapped chicken.
Not knowing there'd be a chicken starter, I'd opted for the chicken main – and despite the protein double-up, found the meal flavourful and filling.
On the side, a glass of NZ Wairau River Chardonnay: by chance, pairing with both the starter and the main.
Entertainment & Service
Business Premier offers each passenger an 11-inch HD touchscreen, loaded with movies, TV shows, games and music.
The system also syncs with the passenger manifest – and if an Air New Zealand frequent flyer number is linked, your Airpoints account as well – so you'll be greeted by either your full name, or your 'preferred name', if you've set one via Airpoints.
The screen a tad difficult to view during take-off and landing, being locked to the side, but during the flight, can pivot out in front of you.
You'll find a headphone jack at the bottom of the screen – plus a second, to your side – as well as a USB outlet. If you're having trouble lining your cable up, tap the screen and the lights here illuminate.
There's also a remote control mounted to the side, but being a touchscreen system, this wasn't needed: serving only as a quick and easy way to dial the volume up and down in fewer actions than required on-screen.
Even on trans-Tasman flights, AirNZ is providing amenity kits in business class, comprehensively stocked with Ashley & Co hand cream and lip balm, a dental kit, earplugs, White Glo mouthwash, socks, an eye mask, and a pen.
On the service front, cabin crew were polite and attentive, but could have provided better information about the drinks available when requested – or at least, advised that the list could be found via the entertainment screen, which was only discovered later in the flight.
That said, one member of the crew went above and beyond, making his way through the cabin to greet elite frequent flyers after take-off, and then memorising their surnames to provide a personal farewell at the aircraft door upon arrival.
With the business class experience on these short flights being on-par with what you'd expect on a much longer voyage, Air New Zealand's Boeing 787 Business Premier marks a welcome return to international flying, within the first of (hopefully) many travel bubbles to come.
Although the design of the seat lacks privacy – albeit less of an issue on the more secluded 'A' side – on daytime hops like this, the seat's cocoon configuration still beats a Boeing 737 business class recliner.
Add to that, the mood lighting of the Boeing 787 and the lower 'cabin altitude', you'll arrive feeling fresh and ready for business, or a long-overdue international holiday.
Also reviewed: Qantas 'travel bubble' A330 business class