Our team made it on board Air New Zealand's newest 777-300ER when it stopped at Wellington last week, and we checked out the brand new Premium Economy Spaceseats, Economy Skycouches and updated Business Premier flat bed pods with an eye out for business travellers' needs.
Here's what to expect in Business Premier, Air New Zealand's business class. (There's no first class: Business Premier is the airline's top offering.)
Still based on Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class design, the updated Business Premier is an evolution rather than a revolution. Gone are the rather dated browns of the cabin in exchange for seats in a creamy white leather with deep purple ink-coloured accents, surrounded by glossy white partitions.
The new colour scheme lets the mood lighting change the cabin ambience, which was a uniformly soothing pink during the time we were on the plane.
In seat mode, the update mainly brings better in-flight entertainment, more accessible 110v power, a USB charging socket and a video-out cable so you can play your own movies on the seat screen rather than your iPhone.
The table is as big and work-friendly as before, with space for a large laptop and papers. It's one of the best in the sky for getting some work done en route to your destination.
It's when the seat folds forward to make a bed that the real benefits of the revamp are obvious. The old seats didn't make an especially soft bed, and frequent travellers got used to padding them with extra duvets to get a good night's sleep.
The new bed, though, has a noticeably squashier back, plus a two-inch thick foam mattress pad that made it deeply comfortable for a quick pretend snooze. It'll be a real bonus to business travellers looking for some quality sleep on long-haul flights.
There are two Business Premier sections on the 777-300ER: a larger forward cabin with seven rows, and a smaller aft cabin with four rows, all four-abreast. Here's the forward cabin:
The forward cabin, while larger, looks like the better pick: no baby bassinet cribs, further away from the engines and cabin noise from Premium Economy and Economy classes. Here's the smaller aft cabin, separated from the rest of the plane by only a curtain:
The food and wine
Unfortunately, there wasn't an opportunity to check out how well the new galleys with induction ovens work. Air New Zealand is pioneering the new kind of oven on the new 777s, which will widen the range of food it serves as part of the meal service and as snacks. Here's what they're advertising:
Air New Zealand is rightly proud of NZ wine, and serves it almost exclusively on board -- the only non-Kiwi stuff is the champagne and port.
The new Business Premier galley kitchen is also a somewhat trendy wine bar, showcasing the six to eight varietals that have been loaded onto each flight.
Exceedingly cleverly, Air New Zealand has selected self-righting wine glasses in case there's turbulence. Not sure how a self-righting wine glass works? Take a look in this video:
A new "Kupe" entertainment system replaces the old "Kia ora" version, and about time too -- the old version was slow and the screens weren't high quality.
The new system is responsive and fast, and -- most importantly when reclining in the new comfy beds -- angles down a bit more than the old one so there's no reflection.
The only real downside to the new 777-300ER Business Premier is that it's not in the nose of a 747. There's something about the quiet, oddly shaped, exclusive cabin at the very front of a jumbo, and it's not the same in a square cabin just in front of the big 777 engines.
Any specific questions about the new Business Premier? Drop us a comment below and we'll get back to you with answers.
You'll find full reviews of all three classes, together with our take on how good they are for the business traveller, in our coverage this week.