A Boeing 777-200ER. The national carrier launched this five-times-a-week service in mid-December and they'll be hoping for more inbound traffic - American visitors coming south from Houston - than they would expect from the new flight to Buenos Aires (which also started last month).
Class: Premium Economy.
Price: One-way Economy Class fares start from $989 and one-way Premium Economy fares from $2089. Look out for sale prices.
We got in a little ahead of the scheduled 12h 45m. It's a sniff longer than the Vancouver service.
My seat: 23H - an aisle seat at the front of the Premium Economy section. So plenty of legroom. Downside is, the tray table stores in the armrest, so you lose a little width, but not so much that you'd really notice. If you're a light sleeper, you might not like being so near the galley - me, I enjoy popping in there to chat to the staff.
Fellow passengers: A heap of Air New Zealand's senior staff, including big boss Christopher Luxon, and a few famous(ish) faces to boot: Minister of Economic Development and Idle Junkets Steven Joyce is there for the inaugural celebrations, as is US ambassador Mark Gillespie and singer Gin Wigmore, who was on her way to perform at a banquet event in Houston celebrating the new service. She spent much of the flight playing cards with her bandmates.
Also my old law lecturer and the country's former chief censor, Bill Hastings. Bill's a good bugger and summed up nicely the value of this new route - he was on his way to Florida, and Houston provides a much sweeter connection than LA. The longhaul part is longer - but that's fine, because you're sleeping for most of it and the shorthaul connections are easier.
Chocka. And, sorry Mr Aldworth, there's no chance of an upgrade to Business Class today. Always ask, people.
Entertainment: Celeb spotting.
The service: Top form. The staff were clearly pretty stoked to be on board for a big-deal flight.
Food and drink: If you can make fish taste good on an international flight, you're doing something right. The paprika-dusted hapuku was bang-on. For breakfast: a very good frittata with veal sausage.
The toilet: Spick and span. With so many seasoned travellers on board, there was an early rush of flyers heading to the loos to switch into comfy slacks or pyjama pants.
As it was kind of a big-deal flight, we were given a flash toiletries bag. Not just any old bag mind, this was a Deadly Ponies bag. "Your wife will love that for Christmas," said the nice woman from NZ Wine who was seated next to me. She was right.
Luggage: The 777-200s have plenty of room for carry-on.
The airport experience: I had my first experience of the new Koru Lounge at Auckland Airport.
Would I fly this again: No doubt. This is a terrific new gateway into America. Make the most of it.