“Welcome aboard the world’s first Dreamliner,” is Air New Zealand’s proud announcement on boarding at Sydney for the three hour flight to Auckland.
The plane is shiny with lots of new fangled gadgets, the most notable being the polarised glass window shades that electronically ‘open’ or ‘close’. The toilets are like something from the Jetsons and one wonders what the Japanese fitout of this plane offers in the lavatories.
A serious downside with the plane is the three-three-three economy configuration that makes for a very cramped seat and on the packed flight like NZ104 it’s difficult to work on a laptop even with an accommodating partner one side and a nice old lady on the other. Two adjoining road warriors would be playing duelling elbows for the entire flight.
To add to the disappointment with the seats they aren’t particularly comfortable. For the three hour journey between Sydney and Auckland they are tolerable but they would be a painful experience on a longer haul flight.
One area Air New Zealand excels in is with its inflight entertainment system with an excellent range of movies, TV series and music. The favourites playlist actually works, unlike its equivalents on Qantas and United Airlines. A nice little touch is you can email your favourites list from the seat.
The touchscreen is responsive although not quite as intuitive as one might expect on a modern airliner.
A downside with the 787 entertainment system is the sound levels are quite low, the volume has to be cranked up until nearly the maximum before you can hear soundtracks. If you have your own headphones with volume control then this is the time to use them.
If you’re bringing other equipment, there are two power socket for every three seats which are easily accessible in the base of the seats in front. This is a lot easier than hiding them in the armrests — on the Qantas business class flight last month I had to ask the cabin crew where they were hidden after half an hour searching.
Despite the plane being full, there’s ample room in the luggage bays. This is possibly due to Kiwis not pushing the limits the way Asian, American and Australian travellers do with carry on baggage.
The cabin crew are the usual friendly and helpful bunch that Air New Zealand does well although they seem a bit overworked in the early stages of the flight. Service is a bit slow out of Sydney with nothing but a glass of water for the first hour. Tough if you haven’t eaten and you’re waiting on a lunch.
Once service begins the food is good standard economy fare with the choice of piri-piri chicken or lamb tagine and complimentary bar if travelling on ‘Works’ or ‘Full Works’ tickets.
The lamb tagine, a combination of diced lamb and sausage on couscous is touch greasy while the chicken salad was bland and inoffensive.
Travelling on the ‘Works’ or ‘Full Works’ package includes meals and beverages with drinks ordered through the IFE menu are quick to arrive which were much needed after the long wait for the initial food service.
Arrival in Auckland was fifteen minutes early despite the almost predictable ground delays in Sydney and overall the experience was pleasant, even if one gets off the plane with a sore bum and bruised elbows.
Overall, the Air New Zealand 787 Dreamliner service is an efficient way of getting across the Tasman with some nice quirky touches although in economy though you wouldn’t want to be travelling too much further.