Jacqueline Smith: The drawbacks of new comforts

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Unless you're shelling out for cuddle class, the new economy seats on Air NZ little to be desired. Photo / Natalie Slade
Unless you're shelling out for cuddle class, the new economy seats on Air NZ little to be desired. Photo / Natalie Slade

I was most excited to be flying home from Los Angeles on the second flight of Air New Zealand's brand new Boeing 777-300ER. I had read glowing reviews of first and business class, and apparently even we in cattle would experience greater comfort.

As my legs are short I usually have no problem flying economy. I can fling my feet around, I can reach down and rummage around in my handbag and I can slip past my fellow passengers when I want to walk around.

That was certainly the case when I flew to LA a week earlier on the older plane, which was quite comfortable by aircraft standards. I typed away on my laptop for a couple of hours, then slept just fine. The meal was nice enough, the film selection excellent, the seats suitably squishy. Most importantly, it was possible to step over my neighbours to walk around and, I felt I could breathe.

So how would the much-hyped new plane compare? As a lone traveller I wasn't going to get my hug on in the innovative cuddle class.

Instead I ended up in one of the new economy seats, the window seat to be precise, which meant getting the couple in the middle and aisle seats to de-wedge themselves so I could plonk myself, my book and my laptop down.

Unfortunately this wasn't so easy because economy class on the new plane is noticeably smaller. As the seats are like La-Z-Boys, there is precious little room to stow a Macbook under the seat in front of you.

The woman next to me was not huge but there was no way I was able to slip past her and then her husband to get to the aisle, so I didn't move for the duration of the flight.

It seems that in adding extra padding to the seats the airline has taken away some other comforts such as being able to lean forward without hitting your face on the seat in front.

Also I couldn't open my laptop - even on my lap - when the passenger in front of me reclined his chair. I asked if he wouldn't mind keeping his seat upright until after the meal service to buy me more time. Fortunately, the meal service took about two hours.

My legs were elevated for the duration of the flight, as I had tried out the leg rest a few minutes after take-off but hadn't been able to get it back down. And I had to yank the seat back into position after having it reclined. So did my neighbours.

The neighbours told me that when they commented to a flight attendant that the seat seemed smaller than usual they were told they could have chosen to fly business. Bad answer.

Actually, for some of us - most of us - it's not a matter of choice. We can only afford to fly economy.

I love Air NZ. I love the staff. But, to be honest, unless I'm ever travelling with my other half and can afford to pay extra for some cuddles, their new plane would not be my first choice to fly to the States again.

* Jacqueline Smith is an entertainment writer for the Herald.

- NZ Herald

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