Top five little-known improvements on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER

By John Walton, February 17 2011
Top five little-known improvements on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300ER

Our team made it on board Air New Zealand's newest 777-300ER when it stopped at Wellington last week, and we've brought you in-depth reviews of the brand new Premium Economy Spaceseats, Economy Skycouches and updated Business Premier flat bed pods. 

You'll find full reviews of these in our coverage this week, together with our detailed analysis of what's improved -- and what hasn't -- for the business traveller.

But in all the discussion (not to mention a fair bit of hype) about the new seating, there are some great improvements (and a few downsides) about the new cabin layout, which Air New Zealand plans to use on all its long-haul 777s, re-fitting the older 777-200ERs in turn.

It'll also be fitted to the new long-range Boeing 787 Dreamliners when they eventually arrive from the factory.

Here are our top five favourite little-known improvements on the new planes. 

1) The new in-flight entertainment

The updated entertainment system, called Kupe, is excellent. It's a real improvement on the last generation Kia Ora system, which was slow and offered fewer features.

We spent a few minutes looking through it when we were onboard, and captured a video to show the speed and responsiveness of the new system.

The only place where the system falls down is the moving map airshow, which takes much longer to load.

The other downside is for economy class passengers, who have an enormous sharp-edged box (which contains the system's workings) sticking out into their already cramped leg room.

2) A vineyard cellar door in the sky

Air New Zealand's wine selection is just fantastic, and they've really outdone themselves this time. 

The new wine bar area in Business Premier (which is up at the door where all passengers are welcomed on board) is relaxing and stylish. With promises of wine tastings to be held in-flight, it's sure to become a swift favourite.

The self-righting wine glasses in Business Premier and Premium Economy are also a great innovation.

Wine fans travelling in Economy will also be pleased that they can upgrade their drinks selection to one of the top notch drops from Business Premier for a NZ$8-10 fee.

3) Mood lighting

Boeing's LED mood lighting isn't unique to Air New Zealand, but the airline has clearly chosen its seating and cabin colours carefully to make the most of it. 

The mood lighting, which changes colour unobtrusively throughout the flight to suggest daylight and timezone changes, is a real improvement on the old glaring fluorescent aircraft lighting.

Seats up front in Business Premier and Premium Economy come in a light creamy leather with matte white trim, plus accents in deep inky purple.

Down the back in Economy, the seats are a functional dark charcoal grey-black with white plastic trim. 

The seats pick up the changing colour of the lights well, making the most of this new feature. Clever.

4) Ordering food and drinks from your seat

In a first for Air New Zealand, the new touch-screen entertainment also serves as a menu and ordering system for food and beverages throughout the flight. 

Just tap through to what you want: your order will pop up on a screen in the galley and will be delivered to your seat.

(Allow us to recommend the Trinity Hill Hawke's Bay Syrah. It's fantastic.)

With the ultra-narrow aisles in the high-density 10-abreast Economy seating , anything that means that passengers don't have to squeeze their way down to the galley is a good idea.

5) Fantastic new in-flight amenity kits

In quirky Kiwi fashion, the hand-outs for Business Premier and Premium Economy have had a facelift too.

Business Premier passengers get a purple printed box containing a pen, stripey socks, various moisturisers and lip balms, and a hilarious eye-shade with one of a series of prints on it.

We rather suspect that the cabin crew will get the most out of this: who could fail to be amused by the Mona Lisa sleeping next to an alien or a panda? But the eyeshades themselves are soft towelling cotton -- a real high-quality effort. 

Premium Economy passengers receive a stylish cream and purple felt envelope with dark purple socks and eyeshades.

While business travellers aren't exactly the market for the new children's kits (although the shiny silver rocket backpack would make a great iPad case), we're big fans of anything that keeps younger passengers occupied and quiet during the flight. 

Bonus points to Air New Zealand for adding children-sized cups with lids, too -- it won't be raining juice in the cabin during turbulence any more.

And finally: Otto the glittery purple beanbag

The winner of the "item most likely to be pilfered by passengers" title has to be Otto. (That's the name Air New Zealand gave the glittery purple ottoman beanbag that replaces the footrest in Premium Economy.) 

Anybody over about five feet tall won't need to use the beanbag for their feet, but with the strange angle of the tables in Premium Economy, we reckon that business travellers keen to get some work done without putting their back out will use the beanbag as a rest for their laptops.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our final report: an analysis of the costs and benefits of Business Premier, Premium Economy, the Economy Skycouch and regular back-of-the-bus Economy for business travellers.

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 Jan 2014

Total posts 1

Now these are neat improvements to the 777.  I wish I had had them on my Air Canada 777 trip home from Paris to Toronto last summer.

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