Air New Zealand, like most airlines, is about to end the era of the 747 with the airline’s last jumbo plying the transpacific route between Auckland and San Francisco until early next month.
With three weeks to go before decommissioning and being replaced by a 777-200ER, The City of Christchurch is showing its age. Although not quite as badly as United’s jumbos that were withdrawn late last year.
Catching the old bird in its final days was a touching note of nostalgia for the end of the jumbo jet age but also showed why its time for these older jets to be retired.
The first problem was a delay for ‘operational reasons’ – we never learned what those operational reasons were for the two and a half hour delay although we learned from the crew later that the flight came “within a whisker” of being cancelled – and NZ8 left shortly after 10pm.
On boarding, the age of the plane becomes quickly apparent with the interior fittings looking very much their age.
The economy seats themselves though are substantially wider, more comfortable with greater leg room than the connecting Dreamliner service from Sydney. This is good thing on a fourteen hour flight.
While the seats were travelling well with age, the IFE system wasn’t. For the first hour there was no sound until the cabin crew rebooted the system, even then both the video and music channels were often distorted and choppy.
Once the in flight entertainment system was fixed, it was onto the meals. Dinner was a choice of ham pasta, a mumbled chicken dish and a beef curry. Everyone in our row took the beef which was a touch greasy but fine when mixed with the rice. The ice cream was a nice touch but serving it with the hot dish meant you had to each quickly.
In between the meal services, the crew were friendly and efficient and somewhat wistful about the last days of the 747; most of them had spent their careers on these planes.
Breakfast was the choice of a cold cereal or hot omelette, baked beans and chicken sausage both of which were accompanied with fruit salad, roll and yoghurt. The hot breakfast was a standard but not unpleasant economy class airline breakfast.
Eventually the plane arrived in San Francisco two hours late, and then I found a prominent analyst had pinched the car hired by VM Ware to take us to the hotel. But that’s another story.
Many people will be sad to see the last of the 747, but Air New Zealand’s last jumbo shows they have reached the end of their days.
Paul travelled on Air New Zealand as a guest of VM Wear to attend the VM World conference in New Zealand.