Review: Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Business Premier (Brisbane-Auckland)

Travel the bubble in style aboard AirNZ's Dreamliners, now flying from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to Auckland.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, May 7 2021
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Business Premier (Brisbane-Auckland)
Route

Brisbane to Auckland

Aircraft Type

Boeing 787-9

Airline

Air New Zealand

Flight

NZ146 (travel bubble flight)

Cabin Class

Business

Seat

9A

Notes
The Good
  • Direct aisle access from every seat
  • Laurent-Perrier Champagne, including before take-off
The Bad
  • No printed menu makes it hard to plan meals, pair drinks
X-Factor
  • AirNZ's best aircraft now flies across the Tasman
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

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.

Check-in

  • 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.

Lounge

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.

Read: Visiting Air New Zealand’s international lounge in Brisbane

Flight

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.

On top of the paper-based arrival cards, passengers must also complete an online declaration prior to their NZ-bound flight, and another online declaration to enter Australia.

Important steps: What you need to do before travelling to NZ

Seat

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 slde – 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.

Meal

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.

Verdict

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

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

16 Oct 2017

Total posts 124

Actually I think you'll find the NZ Premium Economy seat on the 789 beats a Boeing 738 VA Business recliner hands down. Qantas 738 at least has a footrest similar to NZ PE, but the 41" pitch of the NZ PE seat is much better than Qantas J. 

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 594

Not a surprise considering you are comparing a long haul configured aircraft to a short haul aircraft. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

Chris, I think this is a very generous review of a very dated business class cabin.  Well overdue for a refresh.  The seat cubicles are narrow, packed in like rows of coffins.  Ever since a very average Trans-Tasman flight, I now prefer Premium Economy - much, much better.  Go figure.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Mar 2018

Total posts 18

It would be unwise for ET to bite the hand that feeds its own business model!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2501

Hi waratahbay - happy to correct you there, for several reasons.

1. Our first duty is to the reader (otherwise readers lose trust in the brand) and when it comes to reviews of flights, seats, hotels etc we call 'em as we see 'em. In this case, while the seat design may well be 'dated', Chris obviously felt it was sufficient to the task of this 3 hour hop. A review of a much longer flight with an overnight component might well yield a different take, but we leave this up to the individual reviewer and Chris is among Australia's most respected in that area.

2. A good example of Executive Traveller's fair-minded review policy would be our coverage of Qantas' Boeing 787-9 premium economy, starting with my own review at https://www.executivetraveller.com/review-qantas-boeing-787-9-dreamliner-premium-economy-seat. We were in fact the only media to repeatedly call out the reality of this seat's issues when it comes to pitch and the legrest/footrest arrangement (although the later is not an issue for some travellers), rather than parrot the airline's "revolutionary!" line, and that we've done on several review flights all hosted by Qantas.

3. As it happens, Air New Zealand did not cover the cost of this trip, it was booked using frequent flyer points – so there's no "hand feeding us" to bite.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 16

Would love to see a review of the Perth - Auckland AirNZ flight (business or premium economy). 

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2501

Realistically, this is unlikely to happen as we're based in Sydney and Brisbane, but you can take this BNE-AKL review of the same aircraft as a good stand-in.

07 May 2021

Total posts 1

@David

Why not though?

As I and many other readers would sure find an 8 hour flight review pretty helpful especially as more international travel starts to open up. You or Chris could just fly QF or VA to Perth and then Air NZ or QF to AKL and then something else back from AKL. Could smash out lots of helpful good reviews in one trip.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2501

Morgan - well, look, I won't rule it out, but almost all review flights are 'hosted' by the airline so we'd need to have Qantas or Virgin fly us to Perth, then have Air New Zealand fly us to Auckland, and then the return leg from Auckland would either by Qantas or Air New Zealand, and those review trips aren't always easy to are put into place. But as I said, not one I'd firmly rule out.

QFF

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 170

Have done this flight In J a few times. Despite the distance, it’s often a fast trip PER-AKL due to prevailing winds, so if you have dinner you don’t have much time for a snooze. Not the greatest J seat as others have commented, but way better than J in a QF 737. An issue that seemed to arise often was passengers booking A/B seats, not realising that they were totally separate, then wanting to turf another passenger out of their A seat to obtain two A seats together. The flight AKL-PER can vary a lot in duration depending on winds and the path taken to avoid the winds.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 180

Agreed.  I once did a Melb-Auckland-LA trip in business on an Air New Zealand 777.  Not a good experience, these seats are narrow, lack privacy, and for tall people you get your feet bumped regularly when sleeping.  Well past their use by date.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1259

"Generous" is putting it mildy. Besides offering direct aisle access and a flat bed this is one of the most uncompetitive business class seats out there. It offers minimal privacy and almost no practical storage space. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 230

The Air NZ Business Class seats are in my opinion the worst  that I have ever tried. Pathetically cramped and very little privacy apart from the few David mentioned. A very outdated and very ordinary seat in every respect. Out of 10 I would give it 2. The only redeeming factor is Air NZ have is very good cabin service and very good food and beverages. If it weren’t for that they would have a very lowly rated product in my opinion. There are far  better Airline seats on other carriers but I appreciate that this revue is about Air NZ so I won’t go any further Than suffice to say I have travelled Air NZ on a few occasions in Business so do have practical experience with them. 

Agree they are cramped, but so is EK J class. Not impressed with either. The QF in the A330's (haven't been in their B787) is excellent as are some of SQ's (the big wide ones on some 777's).

I would rather have a good seat and a ham sandwich rather than a bad seat and a 5 star meal.

26 Mar 2020

Total posts 16

One thing I don't understand is the lack "single use" printed menus particularly for "travel bubble flights" which can only operate when there is zero to minimal Covid cases.

My local restaurant still offers a printed menu and it's not against Government guidelines across Australia or New Zealand.

The risk of catching covid through touching "single use" printed menus onboard would be I assume almost zero.   

The crew could leave menus on your seat before passengers board and then collect them during cleaning after the aircraft has landed.

It appears that the inflight dinning experience was not as premium as it could have been and having to ask cabin crew can feel like a chore. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 67

Qantas take note of the meal service in terms of content and portion size (see my comments under "Community" regarding the meal service in J on the A330 Per-Syd-Per legs) 

Excellent review Chris, given me QF 330 pr 787 Business seat anytime over NZ dated Herringbone layout.  Credit to NZ however for providing a full Business class experience.

In comparison, my recently QF flight across the Tasman was a bare bone offering.  Disposable cups for champagne, drinks, meals served on one single tray, no amenities bag, no pillows, blanket etc.  It's not normal times and I was happy just to be able to take the trip without the trinkets.  Questions remains why QF not able to match its smaller competitor in service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Apr 2016

Total posts 11

I find it interesting how some think this is the worst Business Class seat - I would have thought the British Airways seat until 2 years ago would be worst...even less storage than Air NZ seat, more cramped and looking straight at the FACE of the other passaenger.

Having said that, this is a very positive review - for example, the small table for drinks is not well placed - one slight arm movement - drink goes over.  As compared to SQ drinks table or most others.

Seat also has little recline - its small recline or flat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 10

Maheshh,

I think the point was, this is the worst business class seat in current service - but I agree its up there with the worst business class seats ever in service on any airline.

22 May 2020

Total posts 2

100% agree it’s not a great seat. Qantas A330 seat beats it hands down. Flew from Buenos Aires to Auckland on it a couple of years ago, found it very cramped and narrow with no space for anything. Your feet in the aisle get bumped at night when trying to sleep, especially as the 787  is so narrow. It’s an outdated version of the herringbone layout. New versions like Cathay and Finnair have it reversed so you face the window  - more privacy. For shorter flights I agree with Hirizer - Prem Economy oddly more comfortable. Have found the ANZ food and service in either class usually very good. However when flying resumes I will actively avoid the 787 of any airline; and ANZ in particular. Airbus A350, even A330 any day.

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