Air NZ to frequent flyers: pay up if you want extra-legroom seats

By John Walton, November 21 2012
Air NZ to frequent flyers: pay up if you want extra-legroom seats

UPDATE | Air New Zealand has now confirmed to Australian Business Traveller precisely which premium economy, extra-legroom, exit row, bulkhead and extra-elbow-room seats are now up for sale -- and which are still part of the package for its Gold, Gold Elite and Koru cardholders, Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, and Star Alliance Gold members. 

PREVIOUSLY | Air New Zealand is removing extra-legroom seats from the domain of frequent flyers and offering them for sale to all passengers under its new "Seat Select" program.

Previously known as Space+ seats, these have long been a free perk for the Kiwi flag-carrier's Gold, Gold Elite and Koru members, along with Virgin Australia's Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders.

But from this Thursday they're available to any traveller at the following rate:

  • NZ$10 (A$8) within New Zealand
  • NZ$20 (A$16) across the Tasman 
  • up to NZ$75 (A$60) on longer flights, including extra legroom seats in premium economy

Air NZ's top-tier frequent flyers will also need to pay up front in order to guarantee their seat up front, or risk missing out.

The seats will only be available for free to the airline's most valuable customers "if there are any Preferred or Exit Row Seats still available 48 hours before travel" Air NZ says. "Gold Elite, Gold and Koru members will have access to paid Seat Select (if available) free of charge from 48hrs prior to departure."

However, there's also some confusion around an obliquely-worded statement on the Air NZ website which says that despite "some location adjustments" (whatever that means) , "Gold Elite, Gold and Koru Club members still have seats reserved exclusively for them in premium locations."

Australian Business Traveller has requested some clarification from Air New Zealand, especially around the choice of seats you'll have and whether any seats are still specifically reserved for frequent flyers, but the airline has yet to respond.

Virgin Australia Velocity Golds, Platinums also hit

The same pay-for-your-legroom rule applies to high flyers from Air New Zealand partner Virgin Australia.

"Velocity Gold and Platinum members are treated the same as our Air New Zealand Gold Elite, Gold and Koru members when they are flying on the Tasman or a connecting Tasman journey," an Air New Zealand spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.

In comparison, Virgin Australia reserves the good seats at the front of economy -- including extra-legroom bulkhead row 3 -- for its Platinum and Gold members of its Velocity frequent flyer program and has previously swatted down suggestions that it would charge passengers for those seats.

"The final straw", says one frequent flyer

International IT architecture consultant Kai Koenig, a top tier frequent flyer with both Qantas and Air New Zealand, describes the the new Seat Select policy as "the final straw" which is steering his travels away from the Kiwi airline.

"Air NZ has clearly missed the boat when it comes to loyalty and providing a benefit for frequent flyers" he states, saying he feels insulted that despite being a Gold Elite flyer the airline "charges a fee for me selecting what's called 'preferential' premium economy seats."

"I've changed the vast majority of my flying over to Qantas for trans-Tasman trips," Koenig says, citing the Qantas First Class Lounge as a significant draw when he transits through Sydney.

"For my travelling it essentially means that I'm just using Air NZ for domestic trips where there's no alternative at all."

Think this is a bit much? At AusBT, we've laid out some better alternatives for you: how to get real business class across the Tasman and how to find the big planes with more room per seat on flights to NZ.

For more -- and to keep track of updates -- follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

Seems like Air New Zealand  is going backwards...

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 125

What's with Air New Zealand now trying to charge for every single thing?

17 May 2012

Total posts 81

I agree with Kai, its the final straw for me too. I am a Gold FF on Thai and travel to NZ regularly too. I dont even bother now trying to fly Air NZ to gain Star Alliance points anymore. It is just too bloody hard to determine what fare category you are buying ( minimum Q class to gain reciprocal points) You cant do it on the Air NZ website you have to call...and even then when you determine a Q class fare on the phone becuase you cant do it on the web they want to charge you the phone service fee. From there they have that silly upgrade system 'seat only' 'seat plus meal' etc etc.....All too hard. By contrast I fly Emitates on an A380 and while I dont get Star Alliance points I can book evertyhing online in one easy action. The plane is demonstrably better, the service in better and the Business Class is sensational and at least $600 cheaper than Air NZ. They have lost me.

Oddly enough, I was sitting in the new Emirates Lounge in AKL on Sunday having walked past the tired Qantas Lounge on the way and as I saw the QF 737 dwarfed by the Emirates A380 on the tamac and I thought how wonderful it all was sipping on a Veuve Cliquot and eating a hot meal. I was thinking how good is this!!! Then I remembered that  it wont be long before Qantas come along and spoil the party. The cabin crew were saying the same thing on board too.

oh lord, not only are their fares 20-30% higher than everybody else on most routes, now they are devaluing their loyalty programme.

serves them right after what they did to ansett.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

They are becoming more and more like saverjet airways as time goes on :)

17 Nov 2011

Total posts 26

Are they trying to morph into another LCC?

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

04 Sep 2012

Total posts 136

I am going to be blunt...


First Hong Kong is gone, now 'Loyalty' has no meaning!, Perhaps the ANZ's thesaurus for loyalty means , cheap, no sevice or recognition!

I cannot believe is spent $506 dollars last week to renew my Koru Club. They have sad excuses for lounges which are now pay per use and below par and reak of 'Dated'.

And last year i paid nearly $10K on flights to keep up my Silver Stauts..what a waste of money! Their fair codes change all the time so it is impossible to know weather you earn status credits (and Airpoints dollars).

If Qantas bring out a status mach scheme then they will certainly be hearing form me!!!!! (espcially with their new tie up with Emirates and better larger aircraft and have lounges that are classy...not bought by class)

So (ahem, cough, splutter) keep up with the GAME!!!

PS: How did they get ATW Airline of the Year?!? - Plus with Rob leaving, I will imagine even more routes getting axed and even more FF benifits going away...upgrades!!!......

17 May 2012

Total posts 81

I couldnt agree more on Air NZ Lounges. Take Sydney, it is like a Lounge For Hire with Air NZ taking in Thai, Korean United, Austrian and Canadian etc .In the morning in particular its like a 3rd star motel buffet breakfast. Low rent.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

No, it's not "like" a lounge for hire -- as we reported earlier this week, it is a lounge for hire: $55 in Kiwi dollars or local equivalent and you're in.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 169

John, the pricing is far more complex as a frequent flyer posting on another forum has pointed out.   Notably it price gouges booking made from Australia.

There is separate pricing for a standard seat request, a preferred one (like Space +) and exit row.  For NZ domestic flights, bookings made in Australia have it substantially cheaper, but only because the Australian website never offers the "grabaseat" heavily discounted fares, you need to buy those on the NZ site.

However, for Tasman flights it is different:

Standard seat request is NZ$5 booked from NZ, but equal to NZ$12.72 for bookings made in Australia.

Preferred and exit sear request is NZ$10 booked from NZ but A$10 booked from Australia.

The same nominal number in the same currency applies to long haul seat requests.

Some peculiarities are seen though.  Bookings made from Hong Kong for Tasman seat select are less than half of the price compared to bookings made from NZ.  Whereas booking made from the UK for long haul seat select are at 2-3x the price of those made from NZ.

In short, Air NZ is screwing over Australian and UK based customers, but offering remarkably cheap seat select for Japanese and Hong Kong based customers.

However, those of us non-NZ based are more likely to have FFP membership making other choices attractive.

On my part, I would be happy if Golds and Gold Elites could still pre-select preferred seating when they book - all this does is devalue the product again, with a FFP that has one of the worst earn/burn rates in the world.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 177

It seems like they are trying to ramp up profitability prior to relisting. The NZ Govt wants short term gain now, so FF members don't really get a look in. It of course will hurt the airline in the long run.

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