Better seats & free upgrades on Air New Zealand's flights to NZ

By John Walton, November 28 2011
Better seats & free upgrades on Air New Zealand's flights to NZ

Want more legroom, extra space and a proper business class seat across the Tasman on Air New Zealand flights? We'll show you the best flights to pick and where you'll find more spacious planes with better seats.

Air New Zealand mainly uses small, single-aisle Airbus A320s in an economy-only configuration for its flights to NZ, but the Kiwi carrier also runs larger Boeing 747, 777 and 767 planes on certain routes.

Those have fewer people to clamber over, long-haul (and often more spacious) seats, and more of a chance of a spare seat next to you.

Air New Zealand's frequent flyers also get free upgrades to Premium Economy seating (better than regular domestic or trans-Tasman business class) on the 747 and 777 planes when booking economy. This benefit is also often extended to Virgin Australia's Gold and Platinum Velocity Frequent Flyers. 

And if you book full business class, you'll get actual business class rather than the more premium economy style "Works Deluxe" option on the smaller A320s, where you get an economy seat with a few inches' extra legroom.

Here's a quick primer on what Air New Zealand offers on its larger planes.

Real business class

In business class on Boeing 747 and 777 planes, you'll find Air New Zealand's top offering, Business Premier. That's a seat that reclines slightly or, if you want to take a nap, folds forward to make a fully flat bed for a good few hours' snooze.

The 777-300ER plane has the newest version, while the 747 and 777-200 have an older version of the same seat. All Business Premier seats have direct access to the aisle.

There's a full-sized work table, in-flight power and room to spread out. All in all, it's great for trans-Tasman business class.

On the Boeing 767, business class is recliner-style, in a 2-2-2 cabin layout, with a few inches more legroom than you'll find in domestic business class or across the Tasman on Qantas. (Plus, the middle seat pairs mean nobody climbing over you: a definite plus.)

Premium Economy

Air NZ hands out premium economy seats to its frequent flyers on trans-Tasman flights -- so if you're an Airpoints Gold or Gold Elite flyer, that's a big bonus. Some partner airline frequent flyers (Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum members, for example) also get this benefit.

In premium economy on the 777-300ER, you'll find the new Spaceseats -- which now have up to six inches more legroom than they did when launched earlier this year.

On the 747 and 777-200, it's a recliner style seat, which is less spacious -- but still head and shoulders above economy.

There's no premium economy section in the 767.

The best options for economy

Our pick for the best economy seats is the Boeing 747, with the 777-200 following behind. They have extra legroom (around 34 inches of seat pitch for most seats, three to four inches more than on a trans-Tasman A320 and as much as the top A320 offering, "Works Deluxe").

On the 747, these are laid out in 3-4-3 configuration, while the narrower 777-200 sees a 3-3-3 layout.

We're not fans of the new 777-300ER layout in economy, since there's an extra seat jammed into every row -- meaning narrower seats and narrower aisles -- and a couple inches less legroom than the old layout to boot.

How to pick the better seats and more comfortable planes

There are a few tricks to snagging yourself a better seat.

Check the flight number

The easy trick is to look at the flight number: If it begins 07, 08 or 09, it's an A320, but if it begins 01 it's a 747, 777 or 767. (Any trans-Tasman flights that start with 70 are codeshares with Virgin Australia's Pacific Blue operation.)

Check the Air New Zealand schedule and hover over the flight number for the days you want to travel.

You'll note that some flights change planes and flight numbers depending on the day of the week (the one around 1130 is NZ104 or NZ704, and uses a 777 or A320 accordingly).

Make sure your frequent flyer number is entered

Since high-tier frequent flyers get bumped up to premium economy automatically, make sure that your frequent flyer number is entered, whether your status is with Air New Zealand Airpoints, Virgin Australia Velocity, Etihad Guest, a Star Alliance airline or one of Air NZ's other partners.

Book on Air New Zealand's site

You'll only be able to select seats if you book via Air New Zealand (not via a partner), and have an Air New Zealand six-character PNR number (which should look like AB1C2D or something similar). 

We've had success getting automatically assigned to decent seats when booking via Virgin Australia with a Velocity Gold card (so double-check when you check in or, better, at the lounge) but you're likely to get the best seat by picking it yourself. 

For more trans-Tasman travel tips, check out:

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.

30 Sep 2011

Total posts 46

QF has similar flights and more or less same up grade policy on those flights just back track QF AKL-LAX flights. Then there is Emirates well if you are going to pay for BC fares you might as well get the best across the ditch A380. Arrival and departures of these flights are not realy timed for doing business in NZ and V.V.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Well, Qantas just has the one flight, as you've no doubt discovered when we focused on the decent options on other airlines across the Tasman previously. And we've got a flight review of that A380 AKL-SYD flight too. Not a bad way to travel!

Thanks John, thats handy to know.

So to try my luck at scoring an upgrade as a velocity gold, should i book the flights via the Air NZ website or Virgin Australia?

Im just abit confused from the last 2 pars, which booking system i should use.


03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

You're welcome!

I reckon you should try the Air New Zealand website, making sure that you enter your Velocity number. As I understand it, Air NZ reserves a certain number of the premium economy seats for people buying Works Deluxe, but the rest are released to status-holding punters (that's you!).

If you can't select any premium economy seats when booking (referring, naturally, to our guide for the best Spaceseats on the plane), do check back every so often in case the block for Works Deluxe has shrunk.

(In terms of those last two paragraphs, what they mean is: (a) you can only actually select seats if booking with Air NZ; (b) if you book through Virgin Australia they may well pop you in those seats anyway, but it's kind of pot luck.)

Gotcha! thanks again John. Ahhh well that's good how Air NZ recognises the Velocity status when you make a booking on the site.


Yeah I think if that is the case, i'll book through Air NZ so I can select the seats (if i get lucky and they actually come up).

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

You're welcome!

I can confirm that as a Velocity Gold I have repeatedly been able to select NZ "elite-only" seats on domestic bookings with Air NZ.

Haven't tried it across the Tasman, though, since we only found out recently that the extra baggage allowance for elites was reciprocal!

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